Baby Bell and Its Union Make a Connection

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NEW YORK: Most strikes -- like GM's -- occur when low-skill, high-wage workers are afraid of losing their jobs to cheaper labor. But Bell Atlantic's bottom-tier workers had bigger ideas, and before agreeing Tuesday to come back to work, they got a promise from management: That they'd be first in line for better jobs.

"The CWA got guarantees that when one of Bell Atlantic's subsidiaries -- such as GTE -- expands into a new area, Bell Atlantic workers would be considered for the jobs created by the expansion," says TIME Business correspondent John Greenwald. The new technologies, such as faster Internet service, which the rash of telecom mergers are aimed at developing will mean high-tech, better paying jobs, and the unions want in. That approach is certainly more forward-thinking than the fight-the-future strategy that the UAW used against GM. But then the telecommunications business has a brighter future than the auto industry.