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US West Strike Enters Third Day

Striking US West workers stayed off the job for a third day Tuesday as company officials met with a federal mediator and took out full-page advertisements to explain their side of the dispute.

The newspaper ads outlined key points of a bargaining proposal that was rejected by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), whose 34,000 US West workers walked off the job in 13 states Sunday morning.

"We're feeling like we just want our customers and our employees to know what the offer is on the table," US West spokesman David Goldberg said. "All of this information had been presented at the bargaining table, and this is what the union rejected when they chose to go on strike."

Goldberg would not say how many papers carried the full-page ad nor disclose the cost. The company is airing television ads in the Denver area and will run them elsewhere if the strike isn't resolved this week.

Meanwhile, a federal mediator called the company's bargaining team into a private meeting Tuesday. US West spokeswoman Emily Harrison said federal mediator Jim Mahon contacted company officials about the meeting late Monday.

A CWA spokesman said union officials were not called by the mediator.

The two sides are at odds on several issues:

  • Mandatory overtime
  • Health-care benefits
  • Scheduling flexibility
  • A company plan to base bonuses of up to 20 percent on job performance for customer-sales representatives and repair technicians
No new talks are scheduled. CWA leaders said the breakdown in negotiations did not come as a surprise.

"Bargaining is different this session, much more difficult than ever before," said Sue Pisha, vice president of the CWA District 7. She added that the union and the company have never been "this far apart on every issue before."

US West has about 25 million customers in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Montana is not affected by the strike because US West employees there belong to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The contract between that union and the company expired at midnight, but the two sides extended it indefinitely while talks continued.

On Monday, some calls seeking directory assistance or service were answered immediately; others were answered by a recording asking the caller to try later, and still others were not answered at all.

Written by Molly Wood

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