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Wave of Actions by FairPoint Strikers Continues Friday in Manchester

FairPoint Communications

FairPoint strikers converge on company’s Elm Street offices calling for good jobs, quality service, and a Fair Deal for New England

Workers escalating their campaign after negotiators from North Carolina-based FairPoint made no movement at meeting earlier this week

Manchester protest marks the third major action by FairPoint strikers in two days, following events Thursday in Montpelier and Boston

WHEN: Friday, November 21, Noon – 1:00 p.m.

WHERE: 770 Elm Street, Manchester, N.H.

Fairness at Fairpoint BannerMANCHESTER — A wave of actions by striking FairPoint workers continues Friday in Manchester. Strikers and supporters from across New England are rallying on the picket line outside FairPoint’s Elm Street offices.

The striking workers are calling on the company, which is headquartered in North Carolina, to reach a Fair Deal for New England. They say that deep and damaging cuts the company is seeking in negotiations would make it impossible to deliver quality service to customers.

“The executives back in North Carolina don’t get it, but they’ve created a crisis here in New England,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320, which represents FairPoint workers in New Hampshire. “By attacking their skilled workers, FairPoint has left our customers relying on unqualified contractors who can’t do the work.”

The Manchester protest will mark the strikers’ third major action against FairPoint in two days. On Thursday morning, a delegation of strikers and supporters protested against FairPoint’s biggest shareholder — Wall Street hedge fund Angelo, Gordon & Co. — at an investor conference in Boston. At noon, the strikers held a major rally at the Vermont state capitol in Montpelier.

Earlier this week, union representatives participated in an effort to jump-start the deadlocked talks. They attended a meeting Tuesday with the company arranged by a federal mediator. But the meeting broke up quickly after FairPoint officials refused to modify demands for severe cuts that they’ve been seeking since bargaining began this spring.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan issued a statement after Tuesday’s meeting, saying, “I know that FairPoint workers, who stood by the company throughout its bankruptcy proceedings, have brought a constructive approach to the table and offered real concessions, and I encourage FairPoint’s leadership in North Carolina to do the same.”

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin spoke at Thursday’s rally in Montpelier, and said he had talked to the CEO of FairPoint two days earlier. Shumlin said he had urged the CEO to return to the table with the FairPoint strikers so they could “get service back to a level that is acceptable.”

Since the strike began on October 17, FairPoint has been struggling to maintain its northern New England systems with replacement workers hired from out of state. On Monday, Vermont’s Department of Public Service reported that it has received 271 complaints from Fairpoint customers during the strike, a significant increase.

The negotiations for a new contract at FairPoint began in April, and from the outset company officials pressed to increase outsourcing, cut pay for new workers and slash benefits for all employees. The workers have offered more than $200 million in cost-saving compromises during the talks. But the company has not altered its initial demand for $700 million in deep and damaging cuts.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.

The Colbert Report Highlights The FREE KEENE Robin Hoods

Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene
Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene

Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene

Last night the Colbert Report covered something that we in New Hampshire have been talking about at length for years, the Free Staters, specifically Free Keene.

The Colbert Report focused on the Free Keene Robin Hooders and their harassment of parking attendants.  The NH Labor News was one of the first to break the story about the harassment of Keene police officers in our story, “Free Keene from ‘Free-Keene': A Story Of Harassment In The Workplace.

I am glad to see that The Colbert Report is bringing some national attention to the outrageous and threatening actions of the Free Keene Robin Hoods.

TV Ads Tell FairPoint: Respect New England Workers

Fairpoint Ad Healthcare 2

Striking Employees Say They Want To Get Back to Work

Augusta, Maine — The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers released four new television ads featuring FairPoint Communications employees and retirees calling on the company to return to the bargaining table and give workers a “fair deal.”

The spots will run in the Boston, Manchester, N.H., and Portland, Maine, media markets.

In one ad, 15-year employee Marc Jutras describes the struggles his family has faced since the strike began last month.

“My wife passed away in 2013,” says the father of three in the spot. “It was devastating to all of us. It’s daunting to not know where that next paycheck is coming from.”

Jutras says FairPoint’s refusal to bargain fairly constitutes an attack on the middle class. “We’ve made concessions,” he says. “We’ve brought them back from bankruptcy. All we’re looking to do is to get back to work.”

Another ad features Kristen Wescott, whose 11-year-old daughter suffers from a congenital heart defect. But Wescott has no idea how her family will pay for life-saving surgery because FairPoint canceled health benefits for striking workers Oct. 31.

“I’m upset and angry. This isn’t something the company needed to do,” she says in the ad. “The company wouldn’t be in the position it is today if it wasn’t for the union members.”

Nearly 2,000 FairPoint employees in Northern New England went on strike Oct. 17, citing management’s unwillingness to bargain in good faith after company representatives walked away from contract negotiations. Bargaining, which began last April, were stonewalled by FairPoint management, who rejected every compromise offered by union negotiators.

FairPoint wants to outsource skilled New England jobs to low-paid, out-of-state-contractors.

“Our representatives offered numerous concessions which would have saved the company millions of dollars,” said IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill. “But FairPoint refused to budge from its outrageous demands which would destroy middle-class jobs in communities throughout New England. All our members want is a fair deal so they can get back to doing what they do best: servicing their communities. “

Watch the new ads here.

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The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) represents approximately 750,000 active members and retirees who work in a wide variety of fields, including utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads and government. The IBEW has members in both the United States and Canada and stands out among the American unions in the AFL-CIO because it is among the largest and has members in so many skilled occupations.

Why We Organize: The Fight For $15

For Respect

For RespectEvery workers deserves respect.  

We work hard, and only ask to be paid fairly.  For many low-wage workers, work is more like slavery. They work hours on end, making scraps and living in poverty.  For hundreds of thousands of workers in the greater Los Angeles area, living on California’s (higher than average) minimum wage is just not enough to survive.  Workers in LA have come together with local union organizers to Fight for $15.

They are asking for Mayor Garcetti to help improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers in the greater LA area.

Workers all across LA are fighting to build a better future for our families. The truck drivers that deliver the clothes on our backs, the fast food workers who serve us our food on the go, warehouse and retail workers that help fill our holidays with cheer, and the car wash workers who keep LA’s beloved automobiles shiny… We are the backbone of our economy and we have joined together to fight for our rights!

We will not back down until there is change!

Mayor Garcetti, support our fight to improve the lives of the hundreds of thousands of workers that keep the city running.

Sign the petition 

Look at the faces of the people who are organizing in the Fight for $15 in LA.  They are not children, they are everyday Americans, just like you and me.  They are hard workers.  They have families of their own.  They just want to be paid a living wage.

FIGHT FOR $15!

Watch the video on YouTube 

AFL-CIO Summit Focused On Real-World Job Skills And Economic Prosperity

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Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development Summit Focuses on Effective Pathways to Graduation, Real-World Job Skills, Economic Prosperity

Vice-President-Joe-Biden-to-Deliver-Remarks-for-AFL-CIO-AFT-Career-and-Technical-Education-Summit_blog_post_fullWidthWASHINGTON—Career and technical education and workforce development create multiple pathways to high school and higher education graduation, real-world job skills and economic prosperity, speakers including Vice President Joe Biden said today at the first Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development Summit. It was co-hosted by the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

Vice President Biden said school-employer partnerships provide a path to a middle- class life. “These partnerships provide a seamless transition so folks can go from a classroom to a job, and from job to job within the industry they’re in,” he said, adding, “We have to maintain and enhance our workforce so we have the most sophisticated, best-trained workforce in the world.”

Summit speakers emphasized that today’s CTE programs are very different from yesterday’s vocational education programs. CTE has been reimagined to bring together all the players needed to make it succeed—students, teachers, businesses and other employers, and higher education institutions.

“CTE has the promise and potential to help equip a new generation of workers with the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and to forge a new path to college and life,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s a way for our high schools, community colleges and other higher education institutions, and businesses to coordinate and align so they can create and sustain good, middle-class jobs.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said short-term challenges are flat wages and lack of jobs, while the long-term goal must be to regain America’s competitive edge.

“Workforce development won’t be a cure-all, but it is a necessary ingredient. What we need is a full, comprehensive system for lifelong learning. I’m talking about everything from high school programs to community colleges to apprenticeship programs to on-the-job learning. We all benefit when workers develop transferrable skills, so we can move among employers if we want and grow as professionals throughout our working lives,” Trumka said.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said CTE and workforce development are a fundamental part of America’s infrastructure. “It’s as basic to our economy and our communities as building roads and bridges. In fact, workforce development is a bridge—a bridge to our future, to the workers, jobs and technology of tomorrow, to our success as individuals and industries, and to our competitiveness as a nation.”

Alexis Smith is a graduate of the Toledo Technology Academy and now studying biomedical engineering at the University of Toledo.

“My experience at Toledo Tech opened up the doors of opportunity for me to delve into my passion,” Smith said. Of other former and current CTE students speaking at the summit, she said, “We are Exhibit ‘A’ for the power of CTE to engage us in our studies, to help us secure a bright future and to have fun at the same time.”

Among the corporate leaders at the summit validating the importance of CTE programs was Snap-on Inc. Chairman and CEO Nicholas Pinchuk.

“We are in a global competition for jobs,” Pinchuk said. “The single best weapon is CTE. We need to outskill the competition.”

Weingarten noted that for CTE to fulfill its potential, more businesses need to partner with educators and schools to offer a path forward for students with internships, apprenticeships and employment opportunities. This was reinforced in a survey of 570 CTE teachers that the AFT released today.

The teachers uniformly believe in CTE as a way to create opportunity for kids, but said they need the equipment and resources to make the work real and need more partners in business and the community to step up.

“Understanding the realities of the workplace and learning how to apply skills can only improve a student’s chance of success after high school,” a New York teacher said in the survey. A Michigan teacher wrote: “I have seen CTE classes, and the skills learned in them change students’ lives. They give many unmotivated students a reason to perform better in school, and they give many motivated students access to forms of expression and outlets they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Weingarten noted the summit took place just a few days after the polarizing midterm elections. “CTE is a strategy that both Republicans and Democrats believe in and can agree on, so I have great hope that we can move this agenda in Washington, D.C.”

What would YOU do with $707 billion?

WWYD_707_billion

WWYD_707_billionGoldman Sachs just weighed in with their predictions for next year’s economy. They expect “only a modest growth in business investment”… but a whopping increase in the amount of money corporations will spend buying back their own stock.

(Corporations buy back their own stock to increase per-share prices.  Many CEOs get paid more, if the price of their company’s stock rises.  And most CEOs receive at least some of their compensation as stock or stock options.  Either way, increasing the stock price increases how much $$$ the CEO takes home.)

Next year, Goldman Sachs analysts expect corporations to spend a total of $707 billion buying back their own stock.

What else could Corporate America do with that money?

  • Companies could create about nine million $50,000 jobs – with benefits!  (Wait… isn’t “nine million” the number of people who are unemployed in America, right now?)
  • Companies could “afford” to increase the wages of the 3.3 million minimum-wage workers in America. (Most minimum wage employees work 34 hours or less at their primary job… calculating that as 5.8 billion minimum-wage work-hours a year… would mean that all those workers could get a $122/hour increase!  Yeah, that was “one hundred twenty-two dollars an hour”… do the math yourself.)
  • It could pay for the Food Stamp program — for almost an entire decade. (Which only seems fair, since nearly three-quarters of families receiving public assistance are working families who don’t get paid enough to make ends meet. And it doesn’t matter how profitable the industry is: almost one-third of all bank tellers are on public assistance; more than half of all fast-food workers; thousands upon thousands of workers in other industries.)

But apparently Corporate America isn’t going to be doing anything like that, with that $707 billion. Not creating jobs. Not increasing wages. Not giving up the taxpayer subsidies for their low-wage jobs.

No, Goldman Sachs expects Corporate America to spend that money just… buying back shares of stock.

Which doesn’t really create value. It’s not a new factory, or a new product, or even a new market. All stock buybacks do is concentrate corporate ownership. Like ultra-concentrated dish soap: it’s the same stuff, just in a smaller bottle.

And yes, this does have advantages if you’re looking at things from the CEO’s perspective.

All too often stock buybacks are deceptive things, which create a sugar high in the share price, a nice little windfall for management, and pretty much nothing in the way of actual value creation.

But looking at that $707 billion from the perspective of the 99%…?

  • In a stack of $100 bills… that same money would be about 480 miles high.
  • You could buy enough ultra-concentrated dish soap to fill about 75,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

… and from the perspective of the 99%, either of those options would probably be just as good as spending all that $$$ on stock buybacks.

Have a better idea about how to spend $707 billion? Use our comments section to share it.

Read “Nightmare on Wall Street? Are Stock Buybacks Creating Another ‘Financial Bubble?’” here.

Read “Why the Economy Doesn’t Work for the 99%: Massive Payouts to Corporate Stockholders” here.

 

FairPoint Strikers Escalate Campaign with NYC Action Against Hedge Fund Angelo, Gordon

- Union activists descend on investor conference in New York attended by officials of Angelo, Gordon — FairPoint’s biggest shareholder

– Protest highlights hypocrisy of the Wall Street hedge fund, which manages billions in public pension funds even as FairPoint tries to gut worker pensions

NEW YORK — The FairPoint strike in northern New England spilled over onto the streets of New York City today. Dozens of union activists descended on a conference attended by officials of Angelo, Gordon, the Wall Street hedge fund that owns the biggest stake in FairPoint, the troubled telecom company.

“The hypocrisy of Angelo, Gordon is appalling,” said Chris Shelton, Vice President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) for District 1, which includes New England and New York. “They want to make huge profits by investing public employees’ pensions, and then they stand by while FairPoint tries to gut workers’ pensions and end retiree health care. This is a betrayal of their investors and the public and we will expose it at every opportunity.”

The union activists rallied in front of the Union League Club at 37th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan as the 2014 CIO Leaders in Alternative Investing Summit got under way on Wednesday morning.

Angelo, Gordon owns nearly 20 percent of FairPoint’s shares and has a nominee on the company’s board of directors. The Wall Street hedge fund also manages a portion of the New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF), the nation’s third largest public pension fund.

In September, New York State Comptroller and CRF Trustee Thomas P. DiNapoli sent a letter to Angelo, Gordon expressing his concerns about the hedge fund’s behavior. DiNapoli urged the firm to “take all actions appropriate to your role as a substantial shareholder in FairPoint to assure the CRF and other Angelo, Gordon investors that FairPoint is treating its workers fairly and in compliance with the law.”

Angelo, Gordon and other prominent Wall Street hedge funds — which collectively own nearly 50 percent of FairPoint stock — secured their substantial shares in the company after it went bankrupt in 2009. Money managers from several of the other hedge funds invested in FairPoint also attended Wednesday’s day-long meeting.

“FairPoint and its Wall Street investors want to turn good middle-class jobs into low-wage jobs with meager benefits,” said Peter McLaughlin, Chairman of System Council T9 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents nearly 1,700 striking FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. “Angelo, Gordon and other hedge funds invested heavily in FairPoint as it came out of bankruptcy. Their model is buy low, sell high, and they don’t care about the consequences for New England’s working families or customers.”

FairPoint workers believe Angelo, Gordon has the power to help bring a resolution to this dispute, but so far, it has refused to publicly intervene. The workers and their allies are calling on the firm to reconsider its position and stop FairPoint’s attack on the working families of northern New England.

“We are here today to send a message to FairPoint’s Wall Street investors,” said Dennis Trainor, Assistant to the Vice President of District 1 of the CWA. “We will continue to support our sisters and brothers in northern New England as long as this struggle for good jobs and quality service continues. Their fight is our fight against these wolves of Wall Street.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.

More New Hampshire “Day Of Action” Events To Stop Delaying America’s Mail

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This is a short follow up to the post US Postal Unions And Community Activists To Hold “Stop Delaying America’s Mail” Rally In Manchester, NH (and Nationally), where local activists will mourn the loss of the postal services.  The big event will be in Manchester from 4:30-6:30 at City Hall Plaza, however many people cannot make it to Manchester so a few alternative events have been added.

Please Join Us on Friday Nov. 14 for a Candlelight Vigil & Funeral Procession to mourn the impending death of decent service standards. In January the Postal Service will begin closing 82 additional mail processing facilities throughout the country… further DELAYING America’s mail. Please join us in our effort to stop the destruction of a Public Postal Service.
Funeral Attire is welcome!

We will be handing out informational flyers to postal customers at the Concord (18 Loudon Rd) and in the City Hall Plaza from 2:30-4pm.

Bernie Sanders Calls For Fairness At FairPoint

Bernie Sanders

Many people have been following the FairPoint strike. Prior to the elections many of our elected leaders have spoken out against the actions taken by FairPoint Communication.

On Oct 28th Senator Bernie Sanders called a press conference to talk about what was happening to the workers at FairPoint offices across Vermont and all of New England. The press conference talked about the issues facing workers like loosing health coverage to lost pay.  FairPoint workers also talked about how much they care about their local communities who are struggling with long wait times for services and long outages.

Definitely worth the 15 minutes to watch it all.

View on YouTube

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