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FairPoint’s Bogus Claims of Vandalism a Distraction from Company’s Attack on Good Jobs

Fairness at Fairpoint Vigil

Fairness at Fairpoint Vigil Augusta, ME—A little more than one week into a strike by FairPoint’s union workers, the company is struggling to maintain its systems and failing to respond to many customer calls. The company is trying to distract attention from this fact by making bogus insinuations that union members are responsible for acts of vandalism say representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T9 and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400.

Union workers say that individuals working inside FairPoint have told them that the current replacement workforce is unable to maintain the systems or respond to the troubles reported by customers.

“We’re hearing from managers that customer calls are so backed up that many do not make it through at all,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “This is clearly a desperate attempt by FairPoint to distract the public from its inability to maintain the systems and network without its qualified workforce.”

“We’re fighting to maintain the best possible service for New England,” said Peter McLaughlin, Chair of the IBEW System Council T9. “FairPoint has produced absolutely no evidence that any of our members have committed such acts. And we strongly condemn vandalism or any attempt to damage equipment or the network.”

Members of the IBEW and CWA have been picketing FairPoint work sites for twelve or more hours per day since the strike began on October 17th. In addition, members are “mobile picketing,” meaning that they follow replacement workers to work sites to picket those locations in order to educate the replacement workers and the public about the company’s unfair work practices.

According to Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in Manchester, NH, “In the course of mobile picketing, our members have witnessed replacement workers engaged in unsafe practices that endanger themselves and the public. We are gathering these reports in order to file complaints with the proper authorities. Far from endangering the network, our members are taking actions to protect the public from replacement workers’ recklessness.”

“The company admits that it cannot meet service needs and safeguard critical networks,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Colchester, VT. “This desperate attempt to shift blame for that from their unskilled replacement workers to the members of our unions whose hard work and commitment brought FairPoint through bankruptcy is truly disgusting.”

FairPoint Workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont On Strike

FairPoint Communications

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner

Unions Say Company Refuses to Compromise
to Preserve Reliable Service and Good Jobs

Augusta, ME—At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, October 17th, nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications (FRP) in northern New England will go on strike.  Early Friday morning they will establish picket lines at hundreds of work sites across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

“The company’s actions have brought us to this place,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. “We did not want to take this step. Our members want to work; they want to take care of their customers. However, our bargaining team worked as hard as we could to reach a fair agreement that would preserve good jobs and help the company prosper. We’ve offered significant concessions to this company that would save them hundreds of millions of dollars. But they absolutely refuse to compromise on any significant issue.”

Negotiations began on April 25th, when the company came to the table with proposals that would cost workers more than $700 million. The company sought to freeze pensions, raise health care costs, cut retiree health care, and institute a two-tier wage system that would pay new hires as little as minimum wage. In addition, the company sought to end job security and outsource union members’ work to out-of-state and foreign contractors.

After dozens of bargaining sessions during which the company rejected every significant union proposal, the company declared an impasse on August 27th and imposed the terms and conditions of their proposals on the workers. The unions have charged the company with violating federal labor law and are seeking injunctive relief from the National Labor Relations Board.

Employees say the North Carolina-based company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, wants to slash labor costs in order to either sell the business or satisfy shareholders with dividends. “This company is largely owned by a small number of Wall Street hedge funds like Angelo, Gordon & Co.,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “Their priority is to squeeze as much money as possible out of the workers who’ve kept this company going, not to provide the 21st-century telecommunications system that northern New Englanders need and deserve.”

Union leaders say the company hired a notorious “union avoidance” law firm, Seyfarth Shaw, to lead the negotiations with the goal of forcing draconian terms on the workers. “It is clear that this company never intended to reach a negotiated agreement with our members,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire. “They put their outrageous proposals on the table on April 25th and never budged. That is not good faith. That is not compromise and cooperation. It is disrespect, pure and simple. Our members refuse to work under these conditions any longer.”

Members of IBEW and CWA as well as supporters from other unions and community organizations will picket at work sites in order to bring public awareness to their situation and to deter replacement workers from crossing their picket lines. They will ask customers and service providers not to cross the lines to do business or make deliveries to FairPoint locations.

“This fight is about keeping good middle-class jobs in our region and making sure that customers get the service they deserve from well-trained, experienced workers, not low-wage temps from out-of-state or overseas,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont. “Our members have been organizing and educating the public for well over a year. While they would much rather continue to work and take care of our customers, they are absolutely united and ready to strike for as long as it takes to win a fair agreement.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T9 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.

FairPoint Walks Away From Bargaining Process, Declares Impasse

Unions Accuse Company of Federal Labor Law Violations

Manchester, NH–Unions representing nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont met with the company on August 27 in Nashua, NH. The unions made a comprehensive proposal despite the company’s rejection of several earlier proposals.

The company then waited several hours before notifying the unions by email that the parties are at impasse and that the company would impose its last contract proposals at 12:01 a.m. on August 28.

“We strongly disagree with the company. We have not reached impasse. The company should stay at the table and continue to work with us to reach an acceptable agreement,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2327 in Augusta and chair of the unions’ bargaining committee.

The unions have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the company of violating federal law by not bargaining in good faith.

“We are deeply disappointed that FairPoint has walked away from the bargaining process,” said Don Trementozzi, President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400. “We have worked tirelessly for months to negotiate an agreement that is fair to our members, our customers, and the company. We believe the company never intended to reach an agreement with us, but has been pushing towards this outcome all along.”

According to union leaders, the company has rejected every significant proposal the union has put forward since bargaining began in April and has refused to offer any counter proposals since before the contract expired on August 2.

“The company has refused to bargain with us, and their negotiators have even attempted to intimidate and bully us throughout the process,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in Manchester, NH. “But our members will not be intimidated by this company. They are determined to stand up for good jobs and our customers.”

Union leaders say FairPoint management wants to outsource hundreds of good jobs in Northern New England to low wage, out-of-state contractors. The company’s proposals would be devastating for communities that depend on well-trained and experienced workers to build and maintain their landlines, cell towers, DSL, and even 911 systems.

“FairPoint’s employees are some of the best trained, most experienced telecommunications workers in this country,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Burlington, VT. “But FairPoint executives are determined to outsource their work to low road contractors no matter the impact on customers and our communities. We will continue to fight their attempts to outsource our future.”

The union bargaining team will meet with its attorneys and other key advisors on Thursday morning to assess the situation and decide on next steps. In the meantime, the union has notified all members to continue working until further notice.

IBEW System Council T9 represents nearly 1,700 FairPoint employees in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. CWA Local 1400 represents nearly 300 employees in the three states.

CWA-IBEW Fairpoint Workers Are Ready To Strike When The Time Comes

cwa-stand-up-for-workers

Despite working past contract expiration,
FairPoint employees can still strike at will

Union leaders say company still refusing to compromise on any proposal

On Saturday night, just before the midnight expiration of contracts covering nearly 2,000 FairPoint workers across Northern New England, leaders of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T9 and Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 announced that their members would continue working and not go on strike. According to union leaders, negotiations will continue and employees will be covered by most provisions of the expired contracts. However, the unions can now call a strike or the company could lock workers out at any time without prior notice.

Union leaders and management have been in bargaining over a new contract since April, and negotiations have been tense from the start. In the last two weeks, the company has resorted to increasingly aggressive tactics meant to intimidate workers. Union leaders say this demonstrates management’s lack of commitment to reaching a fair agreement. In addition to posting new “no trespassing” signs and spray-painting strike lines on the pavement at many company locations, management went as far as housing strike-breaking replacement workers at the same hotel where bargaining is taking place—an open and hostile attempt to intimidate union leaders.

“They are trying to bully us into submitting to their demands,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in Manchester, NH. “But we will not be bullied, and we’ll continue fighting for our families and our communities as long as we have to.”

Union negotiators have put forward several proposals that would save the company over $180 million. The company has rejected these and every other cost-saving proposal that the unions have made.

Union leaders say they are deeply concerned about management’s demand to be able to replace local, well-trained workers with low-wage, out-of-state contractors. “Most of the current employees have been working for the phone company for decades and we know our customers and our systems better than any outside contractor ever will,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Augusta, Maine. “Customers will suffer if the company gets its way. But management cares more about cutting costs and giving that money to their hedge fund owners than in investing in our communities.”

“Our unions have shown a willingness to compromise from the start,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “But it looks to us like the company’s strategy from the beginning has been to lock out workers so they can replace them with out-of-town contractors. It’s a blatant attempt to gut good jobs in this region. Our members are unified and have the support of many allies and community members. We will not stand by and let this corporation and its Wall Street cronies get away with it.”

Maine Labor Advocates To Show Movie SALT OF THE EARTH in Solidarity For IBEW-CWA FairPoint Workers

SALT OF THE EARTH CROPPED

In an expression of solidarity with the IBEW and CWA workers at FairPoint Communications who are struggling for a fair contract, the Community Union of Ellsworth & Hancock County has organized a public showing of the movie Salt of the Earth on July 29.

SALT OF THE EARTH
Tuesday July 29th, 7:00pm
Ellsworth Unitarian Universalist Church
121 Bucksport Rd.

Join the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth’s Peace & Social Action Committee, Community Union of Ellsworth & Hancock County, IBEW Local 2327, CWA Local 1400, Maine State Association of Letter Carriers, Maine AFL-CIO, Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine, for a free showing of the movie “Salt Of The Earth.”

For more information call 667-4877

Share this flyer with your friends by clicking here for Facebook or here for Twitter.  Also you can download this PDF version of the flyer to post at your worksite or email to your friends.

SALT OF THE EARTH PNH

FairPoint employees attend annual meeting and claim part of company’s contract proposal violates federal law

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner


Fairness at Fairpoint BannerLocal community and union members support Northern New England telecom workers at rally

Charlotte, NC—Employees of Charlotte-based FairPoint Communications traveled from Northern New England to attend the company’s annual shareholders meeting today. The employees—members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA)—came to address top executives and the Board of Directors over concerns they have about the company’s most recent contract proposal. The collective bargaining agreement between FairPoint and 2,000 IBEW and CWA members expires August 2nd.

According to union leaders, the company’s proposed new hire wage rates are, in many cases, below minimum wage levels by as much as 31%. Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW 2327, asked management, “Are you aware that your negotiators are therefore asking the unions to agree to wage levels that violate federal and state laws?”

Union members also expressed concern about rising executive compensation at the same time that management has proposed steep cuts to employee pay and benefits and cut jobs. “Company contract proposals want to enforce poverty wages, cut pensions, and slash health care,” said Serina DeWolfe, a member of CWA Local 1400. “Since 2011 our CEO [Paul Sunu] has seen his compensation increase by more than 37%. We want to know why the Board rewarded Mr. Sunu so handsomely even as management eliminated the jobs of hundreds of our co-workers and now proposes to pay new hires poverty wages,” she said.

After the meeting, the FairPoint employees were joined by dozens of local allies for a rally outside the downtown Charlotte hotel where the meeting was held. “We believe every working person deserves respect and a fair deal. FairPoint, a company based right here in North Carolina but owned largely by Wall Street hedge funds, is attempting to destroy good jobs in Northern New England. We came out today to support our brothers and sisters who traveled more than 1,000 miles to demand justice,” said Ashley Howard, a Trustee of the Southern Piedmont Central Labor Council.

Charlotte-based FairPoint Communications is the primary landline telephone provider in Northern New England. The IBEW System Council T-9 includes Locals 2320, 2326, and 2327 and represents approximately 1,700 FairPoint employees in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. The Communications Workers of America Local 1400 represents approximately 300 FairPoint employees in the three states.

CWA Applauds Government By The People Act

Image from Twitter @OfByUS

CWA-blue-lineWashington, D.C. — The Communications Workers of America (CWA) applauds the introduction of H.R. 20, the Government By the People Act. The legislation was unveiled today by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Minority Leader Leader Pelosi (D-Calif.). The bill is an important step in reducing the influence of moneyed special interests in politics and would put our elections back into the hands of everyday Americans.

Image from Twitter @OfByUS

Congressman Ellison
Image from Twitter @OfByUS

“We the people want to be heard,” said CWA President Larry Cohen. “Corporations, Super PACs and Dark Money give a big voice to the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the rest of us. This uncontrolled spending threatens the democratic voice that is the foundation of our country. Increasingly, ordinary Americans are expressing a growing conviction that their votes don’t count, that our political process is controlled by the biggest bankroll, and that money, not the public interest, sets policies and priorities in government.”

The Government By the People Act would change how we finance our elections by encouraging candidates to rely on a large number of small donations from their constituents back home, as opposed to funds from extremely wealthy donors, special interests, lobbyists, Wall Street and big business. It would empower ordinary voters and hold members of Congress accountable to the people who put them in office, not the biggest bankroll.

Here is how it would work:

• Contributions of $1 to $150 would be matched on a six-to-one basis by a newly-created “Freedom from Influence Fund.” Large contributions would not qualify for any match. The fund would be financed by closing corporate tax loopholes.

• The first $25 contributed by small donors would qualify for a “My Voice” refundable tax credit.

• Every candidate’s contributions from the new fund would be capped, and there would be strict enforcement of campaign finance laws, including disclosure of all donations.

Learn more about the Government By the People Act at www.ofby.us

New Survey Show Voters Don’t Want To Take The ‘Fast Track’ On The TPP

Stop Fast Track

Nationwide, Bipartisan Survey Finds Strong Voter Opposition to Fast Track Authority for Trade Deals Such as the Trans Pacific Partnership

Stop Fast Track

Washington, D.C. — A nationwide, bipartisan survey of voters’ attitudes about “fast track” authority and the Trans Pacific Partnership found strong opposition to Congress’s approving “fast track” authorization, with a strong majority of Americans indicating their belief that trade agreements make the country worse off.

The survey was conducted Jan. 14-18, 2014 by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic pollster, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican polling firm.  It was jointly sponsored by the Sierra Club, the U.S. Business and Industry Council and the Communications Workers of America.

Voter opposition to fast track authorization is broad, with 62 percent saying they oppose fast track authority for the TPP trade deal, versus 28 percent who say they favor it. After hearing an equal number of arguments that have been made by organizations supporting and opposing fast track, voter opposition grew to 65 percent, including 45 percent indicating that they are strongly opposed.

In households where a voter either owns or works for a small business, the verdict is clear: 64 percent say they expect TPP to hurt more than help small business.

On wages and jobs, the environment and food safety, voters clearly believe that TPP will make things worse.  By a 35 point margin, voters believe that TPP would make things worse in terms of American wages (56-21). By a 30 point margin, voters believe that TPP would make things worse environmentally, not better (48-18). Among voters under age 35, 54 percent say that TPP would have an adverse environmental impact.  A full 63 percent believe that TPP would make U.S food safety worse.

“We’re up against big corporations and deep-pocketed polluters, but environmental groups, labor unions, and other allies have the support of American voters. We need to work together to let people know how this behemoth of a trade deal would affect our jobs, our wages, our access to clean water and air, and our safety as consumers. And we need Members of Congress to oppose fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program.

“Republican Members of Congress and their political advisors ignore at their peril the massive opposition of Republican and Independent voters to Congressional passage of fast track trade authority. They are also gravely concerned about the negative impact the proposed TPP will have on jobs in this anemic recovery. These voters know firsthand what the Republican leadership studiously ignores: Since the U.S. runs persistently high trade deficits under current outmoded trade policies – a cumulative deficit of $10 Trillion in goods since NAFTA – trade displaces many more jobs than it creates and small businesses and their employees suffer disproportionately,” said Kevin L. Kearns, president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council.

“Trade agreements are no longer just about tariffs and quotas. They are about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the jobs we hold. We cannot abdicate this process to non-elected representatives. Trade policy, done correctly, is a win for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers. But fast tracking this TPP will reduce the quality of life for Americans,” said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Among other survey findings:

Opposition to fast track authority remains strong across incomes, with 60 percent of voters in households with incomes under $50,000 and 65 percent of those with incomes over $100,000 expressing opposition to fast track authority.

Republicans overwhelmingly oppose giving fast track authority to the president (87 percent oppose), as do Independents (66 percent). Only Democratic voters give a slight edge to favoring fast track, with 52 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed.

More than half of non-college white voters, or 53 percent, are less likely to re-elect a Member of Congress who supports fast track.

Full poll results here

We Can’t Abdicate Trade Policy to Secret Negotiations and Non-Elected Officials

Larry Cohen CWA

Washington, D.C. — In testimony at the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on “Advancing Congress’s Trade Agenda: the Role of Trade Negotiating Authority,” Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America called for a strong and enforceable role for Congress in setting trade policy and priorities.

Last week, legislation calling for “fast track” authorization of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements was introduced.

“Trade agreements are no longer just about tariffs and quotas. They are about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the jobs we hold. We cannot abdicate this process to non-elected representatives. We cannot let foreign policy objectives trump domestic concerns and in the process unravel our own democracy instead of strengthening others,” Cohen said.

“Nor should we abdicate the decision to determine with whom the U.S. should negotiate. Vietnam is a 90 million person nation that is a party to the TPP negotiations.  The minimum wage in Vietnam is 28 cents an hour, and the average hourly wage is 75 cents. Vietnam’s is a record of non-existent workers’ rights and an extensive roster of human rights violations, including the documented use of child labor,” he said.

Cohen was the only witness testifying in opposition to “fast track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. He addressed the issues that a broad coalition of unions, environmental organizations, consumer groups, fair trade advocates and others have joined to work for trade policies that benefit everyone.

“We recognize the reality that we are living in a global economy. Trade policy, done correctly, is a win for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers.

“It is critical that we work to stop the global race to the bottom that has been the result of old-style trade agreements. As a nation, we strive to improve our standard of living and provide a better life for our children and grandchildren. We should not compromise on these values and reduce the quality of life for Americans through our trade policies.” Cohen said.

Congress should establish these priorities for fast track legislation, Cohen said.

1. Document that any new trade deal is not likely to add to the nearly $1 trillion in annual trade deficit in goods. This deficit has increased by five times since we adopted NAFTA.

2. Document the net effect on employment, don’t look only at increases in exports. Each trade deal comes with the promise of job growth, yet the overall impact has been job loss, due to a wave of imports and offshoring.

3. Document the effect on pay and workers’ standard of living. Since NAFTA was negotiated, U.S. wages have stagnated and workers’ weekly take home pay is $100 less than 40 years ago.

4. Ensure that consumer protection regulations by federal, state and local governments are not diminished.

5. Ensure that all trading partners comply with ILO principles and convention. The U.S. has ratified just two of those eight principles that cover workers’ rights, child labor and freedom of association.

6. Ensure that environmental standards are not degraded and are enforceable.

7. Ensure that these social goals are enforceable at least at the same level as all other sections, like patents, investment protection and intellectual property rights.

8. Ensure that Congress plays a meaningful role in setting priorities and limits the authority the U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate on basic governance and human rights.

 

Read the full testimony here: http://www.cwa-union.org/fasttrack-cohen-testimony

Read the executive summary here: http://www.cwa-union.org/fasttrack-cohen-summary

Labor Day Message from CWA President Larry Cohen

Larry Cohen CWA

Washington, D.C. — This Labor Day, we are celebrating some victories and looking ahead to big challenges. We know that times are tough and bargaining can be brutal. But we’re encouraged, because we’re armed with a strategy that enables us to build our power by building a movement of allies – civil rights activists, labor, greens, community organizers, people of faith, immigrant rights groups, the LGBT community and others — who share our vision of social and economic justice.

We know that we can’t reach our goals of secure jobs and bargaining rights on our own. No one group can go it alone. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its allies are too entrenched, too wealthy, too able to exert pressure and control over our democracy. But by working together, like-minded people are bringing about real change.

That’s why National People’s Action’s Sunflower Community partners with our local and T-Mobile activists in Wichita, Kansas, to help win workers’ rights and real immigration reform. That’s why CWA locals in North Carolina are joining the “moral Monday” demonstrations against that state’s assault on voting rights. That’s why CWA members are working with the Sierra Club, Citizens Trade Campaign and Jobs with Justice activists to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership that’s a bad deal for workers, consumers and the environment. That’s why CWA activists have teamed up with faith leaders to support fast-food workers’ strikes for fair wages in St. Louis and other cities. And it’s why 2,000 CWAers joined the crowd at the 50th anniversary March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, to remind our nation that the American dream is not a reality.

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