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Verizon, Labor Unions Conclude Strike With Tentative 4-Year Contract Deal

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Verizon workers finally reached a tentative accord with their employer yesterday. Roughly 40,000 people had been on strike since April 13. Negotiations during the intervening weeks were not always civil. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports on how the two sides managed to find common ground.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: After 44 days of protests, the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said their workers would put down their pickets. The two unions say the deal achieved most of their major goals, though details of the deal were not made public. Gary Burtless is a labor expert at the Brookings Institution.

GARY BURTLESS: It involves almost 40,000 workers, and therefore it's one of the biggest labor actions we've seen since 2008.

NOGUCHI: Most of those workers worked in the telephone company's wireline operation, where demand is declining. The company sought to outsource more call center work and have greater flexibility to use contractors. The workers were vocally opposed. By last month, talks had stalled and Labor Department Secretary - and vice presidential hopeful - Thomas Perez stepped in to mediate. Burtless says the workers faced a hard business reality.

BURTLESS: Verizon thinks that its future lies in wireless. And that is where they're focusing a lot of their investments.

NOGUCHI: That's because the wireless side of businesses has better potential for growth. And workers there are not unionized. Throughout the negotiations, Verizon management focused on cutting costs. It's not clear yet whether it achieved that objective. Union leaders plan to submit the deal to rank-and-file members for approval. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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