AFL-CIO chief to be at rally in Baltimore Union at Bell Atlantic to demonstrate today

November 18, 1995|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

John Sweeney, the new president of the AFL-CIO, is expected to join thousands of unionized workers at Bell Atlantic Corp. today for a rally in Baltimore to protest the company's approach in contract talks.

A spokesman for the Communications Workers of America charged that the company has taken an intransigent position because the union's contract has become enmeshed in a management struggle over who will succeed Bell Atlantic Chairman Raymond W. Smith.

CWA members at Bell Atlantic have been working without a contract since the union's pact with the Philadelphia-based telephone company expired in June. Rather than striking, the union has mounted an extensive public relations campaign against the company, including radio, TV and newspaper ads as well as rallies.

Leaders of Baltimore-area locals of the Communications Workers America said yesterday that they expect about 8,000 to 10,000 members, family members and supporters from across the Bell Atlantic region to attend the 1 p.m. rally today in the Camden Yards parking lot.

"We've got 80 buses coming in," said Charles Gerhardt, executive vice president of CWA Local 2100, which will be cohost of the rally along with Locals 2101 and 2110.

Charles Buttiglieri, executive vice president of Local 2101, said Baltimore-area CWA members also will be out in force at the city's annual Thanksgiving Day parade as it passes the Bell Atlantic building at Light and Pratt streets.

Doug Thompson, spokesman for the CWA negotiating team, said no meaningful negotiations have taken place since Bell Atlantic's former chief negotiator, Al Koeppe, resigned in September.

"We had a lot of respect for Koeppe. He tried and was successful in creating movement on both sides," he said.

Mr. Thompson charged that the talks have been hung up in the competition between Vice Chairman Lawrence T. Babbio Jr. and Vice Chairman James G. Cullen, who are seen as the leading candidates to replace Mr. Smith.

"Babbio seems to be the hard-liner and there's nobody to overrule him," said Mr. Thompson.

Eric Rabe, a spokesman for Bell Atlantic, dismissed the union's theory as "preposterous"

"That's just a fantasy of the first order," he said. "They must be sitting around making this stuff up."

Mr. Rabe said it was the union that was refusing to bargain in good faith.

"The problem that has kept us from reaching a negotiated settlement is that the union has been unwilling to engage in serious negoiations since June," Mr. Rabe said.

Bell Atlantic is the only company among the seven regional Bell companies that has failed to reach an agreement with union negotiators in the current round of contract talks. Among the issues in the talks are wage scales, outside contracting, job security and health care benefits for retirees.

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