IBEW President Edwin D. Hill headlines major rally in Montpelier; strikers and allies target FairPoint’s biggest shareholder in Boston
Strike by 1,700 FairPoint workers for good jobs and quality service becoming national story as walkout enters its second month
Officials in Vermont and elsewhere report that customer complaints against FairPoint have spiked since strike began
FairPoint strikers are mounting two actions on Thursday. IBEW President Edwin D. Hill is headlining a major rally in Montpelier, and a delegation of workers and allies are in Boston protesting against the telecom company’s biggest shareholder.
The 1,700 FairPoint workers of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have been on strike for more than a month. Strikers say that damaging cuts the company is seeking would make it impossible for them to provide quality service to their New England customers.
“FairPoint is tearing up the foundations of the American middle class – all just to line the pockets of hedge fund managers and Wall Street raiders,” said IBEW President Edwin D. Hill. “FairPoint workers have made many sacrifices to help save this company through tough times in the past. It’s time for FairPoint to end this strike by returning to the negotiating table and giving its employees a fair deal.”
Hill is leading the rally on the State House Lawn, and is being joined by supporters from across the Northeast. The presence of Hill and other high-profile leaders and allies marks a major escalation in the fight to win a fair deal for New England.
“These hard-working men and women are fighting for good middle-class jobs across our region,” said Frank J. Carroll, Vice President of IBEW’s Second District, which includes New England. “This struggle isn’t just about FairPoint. It’s about the entire telecommunications industry. Whether it’s FairPoint or Verizon, we will not let these companies hurt the customers we serve by driving down standards and outsourcing jobs to low-wage temp workers.”
Since the strike began on October 17, FairPoint, which is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., has been struggling to maintain its system with replacement workers hired from outside northern New England. On Monday, Vermont’s Department of Public Service reported that it has received 271 complaints from FairPoint customers during the strike, a significant increase.
In Boston, a delegation of strikers is gathering outside an investors’ conference attended by officials of Angelo, Gordon & Co., the Wall Street hedge fund that owns more than 20 percent of FairPoint’s stock. The strikers are being joined by dozens of Boston-area union members and activists, all of whom are calling on Angelo, Gordon to intervene in the FairPoint strike.
Angelo, Gordon manages billions of dollars in public pension funds, yet has refused to publicly intervene as FairPoint has moved to gut the pension and benefits of its workers.
“Wherever we’ve taken this fight, from Charlotte to New York to Boston, we’ve received tremendous support from fellow union members and the public,” said Diane Winton, President of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. “They understand that we’re not just fighting for ourselves, we’re standing up for the good pay and benefits that every worker deserves.”
The strikers and their allies are protesting outside the Taj Hotel, where Angelo, Gordon officials are briefing attendees at the North American Family Office Conference. The conference is billed as “the leading, private meeting for ultra-affluent families in North America.” The Boston protest follows a similar rally last week in Manhattan, where Angelo, Gordon executives attended a conference for investment managers. Nearly 60 activists greeted attendees at that November 12 meeting.
“No matter how far FairPoint executives and shareholders travel, we’re going to be there,” said Don Trementozzi, president of Communications Workers Local 1400. “We will not let this North Carolina company and its Wall Street investors evade their responsibilities to the people of New England.”
The negotiations for a new contract began in April, and from the outset FairPoint 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.
FairPoint officials did attend talks Tuesday in Boston arranged by a federal mediator. But once again the company refused to modify its demands.
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.