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Verizon Workers: We’re Ready to Strike

 Thousands Rally in New York to Reject Verizon’s Demands to Eliminate Job Security, Slash Pensions, and Increase Health Care Costs

With a Week Remaining Before Contract Expiration, CWA and IBEW Demand Good Jobs, and Verizon Commitment to Good Service and FiOS for All

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New York – At a rally today with thousands of workers and supporters, the Communications Workers of America announced that 86% of Verizon workers voted over the last two weeks to authorize a strike if necessary.  The contract expires at 12 midnight on Saturday August 1 and covers 39,000 CWA and IBEW represented telephone workers from Massachusetts to Virginia.

“Our members are clear and they are determined – they reject management’s harsh concessionary demands, including the elimination of job security, sharp increases in workers’ health care costs, and slashing retirement security. Verizon made $9.6 billion in profits in 2014, and reported $4.4 billion in profits just in the 2015 second quarter alone. Their demands are completely outrageous and unwarranted,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President for CWA District One. 

The union and its supporters also pointed to the company’s refusal to build out its state-of-the-art FiOS network and its lack of investment in maintaining the original copper network. 

“On the one hand, Verizon refuses to build its high-speed FiOS network in lower-income areas.  And on the other, they are systemically ignoring maintenance needs on their landline network,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President for CWA District 2-13, which covers Pennsylvania to Virginia.  “This leaves customers at the mercy of a cable monopoly or stuck with deteriorating service while Verizon executives and shareholders rake in billions.”

A damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it.  During its negotiations for a city franchise, Verizon promised that the entire city would be wired with fiber optic cables by June 2014 and that after that date, everyone who wanted FiOS would get it within six months to a year.  The audit found that despite claiming that it had wired the whole city by November 2014, Verizon systematically continues to refuse orders for service.  The audit also found that Verizon stonewalled the audit process. 

In addition, rates for basic telephone service have increased in recent years, even as Verizon has refused to expand their broadband services into many cities and rural communities, and service quality has greatly deteriorated. Verizon’s declining service quality especially impacts customers who cannot afford more advanced cable services, or who live in areas with few options for cable or wireless services.

In 2005, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) eliminated automatic fines for Verizon’s telephone service quality failures, reasoning that “competition” would improve services.  Instead, service quality plunged. In the 3rd quarter of 2010, Verizon cleared only 1.2% of out of service complaints within 24 hours, almost 79 percentage points lower than the PSC’s 80% requirement.  Rather than reverse course, the PSC changed its measurements, cutting out 92% of customers from service quality measurements and consolidating 28 repair service bureaus into 5 regions.  On paper, terrible service quality was almost miraculously transformed. In reality, service quality continued to decline.  

“The 2.5 million members of the New York State AFL-CIO will stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters of CWA and IBEW in their fight for fairness,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “It is through their hard work and dedication that Verizon continues to rake in huge profits. Yet bargaining proposals offered by Verizon punish workers by taking away job security, reducing pension benefits, and increasing health care costs. The dedicated men and women of CWA and IBEW deserve better. Our brothers and sisters will have the full resources of the NYS AFL-CIO at their disposal until a fair contract is reached.” 

 

Background

39,000 workers are currently negotiating new contracts at Verizon.  Fortune Magazine ranked Verizon the 15th largest corporation in America in 2014, with revenues of $127 billion, profits of $9.6 billion, and market capitalization of $198.4 billion. Verizon had profits of $28 billion over the last five years, and paid its top five executives $249 million during that time.  

On July 21st, Verizon reported profits of $4.4 billion in 2Q2015 on revenues of $32.2 billion. The company also reported that during the first six months of 2015 it has paid out over $9.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks, an increase of almost $5.8 billion over the first half of last year. In the Wireline division, Operating Cash Flow rose to 23.5%, and operating income doubled, from 2.6% to 5.3%. FiOS continues to expand and succeed, now constituting 79% of Verizon consumer revenues on the wireline side, and achieving penetration rates of 35.7% for video and 41.4% for internet in markets where it is competing.

But at the bargaining table, the story is different. Verizon is demanding:

  • Elimination of long-standing job security protections including protections against layoffs and forced transfers.
  • Slashing retirement security.
  • Sharply increasing health care cost contributions.  Higher deductibles, co-pays and premium sharing.  Remove the union’s right to negotiate over retiree health care.
  • Vastly increasing ability to contract out of work.
  • Off-shoring call center jobs.
  • Elimination of cost-of-living raises.
  • Eliminate Accident Disability Plan for workers injured on the job.
  • Eliminate 20-year old Family Care Leave policy.

 

At the State House: Trying to get Money Out of Politics

2015-03-18 Senate Rules CommitteeEarlier this week, while the House Finance Committee was proposing cuts to state programs and services, the Senate Rules Committee was discussing a bill to help get Big Money out of politics.

The Senate amended SB 136 and then unanimously recommended that the bill Ought To Pass.  A full Senate vote on the bill is expected next week — and it is possible that the bill will be amended again on the floor, before the Senate votes.

SB 136 was one of a pair of bills filed this year regarding Citizens United and the effect of Big Money on our electoral system.  The House version called for a statewide “Listening Tour” — but last month, the House voted that bill down, largely along party lines.

Since then, 11 New Hampshire towns have passed local resolutions endorsing a Constitutional amendment to get Big Money out of politics.  During their 2015 Town Meetings, voters in Bedford, Canterbury, Gilmanton, Greenville, Madbury, Mason, Plainfield, Rye, Sandown, Walpole, and Westmoreland all approved warrant articles to overturn Citizens United.  So far, 68 Granite State municipalities have passed resolutions asking for a Constitutional amendment.

As the grassroots level, there is bipartisan agreement on getting money out of politics: 61% of New Hampshire Republicans support a Constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions; 80% believe that Congress is more interested in special interests than its constituents.

2012_NH_State_LegMoney in politics isn’t just a federal-level issue. Corporations, lobbyists, professional associations and other groups pour hundreds of millions of dollars into state-level legislative races every two years.

Money in politics is influencing every level of our government.   The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been so successful that now they’re drilling even deeper.  The American City County Exchange (ACCE) is bringing ALEC-style political influence to our local governments, too.

That’s why The Stamp Stampede has been following SB 136 so closely.  We are working to #GetMoneyOut of politics and #TakeBackOurGovernment.

  • Read “Is the NH Legislature Listening to Voters’ Anger when it comes to Money In Politics?” here.
  • Read “NH House Votes Down ‘Listening Tour’ on Citizens Unitedhere.
  • Read “Another Public Hearing on Citizens United in NH – Will it be the Last One this Year?” here.
  • Read “Senator Lou D’Allesandro: We Must Pass SB 136 To Overturn Citizens Unitedhere.

Stamp_StampedeThe Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org.  Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

Get involved in New Hampshire’s movement to #StampMoneyOut of politics.  Join our Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/NHStampede or Follow us at @NHStampede.

Billboard_State_House

US is STILL Redistributing Wealth to the Rich

35BillionFriday’s Motley Fool had an eye-opening article about $35.5 billion of stock buybacks recently announced by Big Banks.

That’s $35.5 billion of profits being “returned to stockholders” rather than being used to pay bank employees a living wage. Yes, these days almost one-third of bank tellers receive public assistance (including food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, EITC).

Yes, that’s our tax money at work: “State and federal governments pay nearly $900 million each year to support bank tellers on these programs.”  At the same time Big Banks are “returning” billions upon billions to “stockholders” – including the very same corporate insiders who decide how much money will be spent on buybacks, and how much on wages. (Wondering how many shares these “insiders” own? Click on these links, then scroll down: Citigroup; Bank of America; JP Morgan.)

That’s $35.5 billion going up the economic ladder, rather than being used to pay workers a living wage.

And that’s just from nine banks. Goldman Sachs has predicted that – this year alone – US corporations will spend $707 billion buying back their own stocks.

That’s money that could be used to create jobs. Or pay employees a living wage. Or restore the health insurance and pension benefits that have been stripped away during the past 20 years. Or invest in new factories, or research and development.

Or, gosh. It could wipe out the entire federal deficit. If only corporations were still paying taxes at the same rates they paid in the 1950s, 60s and 70s… rather than “returning” all those billions to investors.

Read more about stock buybacks here.

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Note to readers: you may have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged here at NH Labor News… and that’s because I’m now working for StampStampede.org. The Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

Stamp_StampedeYou can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

Need motivation to stamp?  Just think about Citigroup, which spends millions of dollars each year on lobbying, and millions more on political contributions (to both parties)… and, oh, wait! There are also 27 members of Congress who themselves own stock in Citigroup. Now, think about last December’s Cromnibus legislation, which included a provision written by Citigroup lobbyists leaving taxpayers on the hook for another Wall Street bailout.

And now… they’re “returning” $7.8 billion of profits to shareholders (rather than, say, rehiring some of those 50,000 workers who were laid off during the last Wall Street meltdown).

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

As Storm Approaches New England, FairPoint Struggles with Service Issues

Complaints from FairPoint customers have spiked since telecom company provoked 41-day-old strike

Some FairPoint customers in Maine have been without service since Nor’easter of November 2nd

FairPoint strikers say company’s attack on skilled workers is hurting region; workers calling for Fair Deal for New England

The winter storm approaching New England threatens to make existing service problems for FairPoint customers even worse. Forty-one days into the strike at FairPoint, the company’s replacement workers are struggling to maintain the telecom company’s northern New England network.

“FairPoint started this strike saying they had a contingency plan in place, but they’re failing our customers,” said Peter McLaughlin, chair of System Council T-9 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Complaints about FairPoint service have been mounting ever since the strike began on October 17. FairPoint, based in North Carolina, is the largest telecom provider in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

MAINE SERVICE PROBLEMS: In mid-November, Maine Public Advocate Tim Schneider said complaints to his office about FairPoint had spiked since the strike began. Schneider told the Bangor Daily News that his office may have received five calls a month about FairPoint before the strike. He said it was getting three to five calls a day since then.

VERMONT SERVICE PROBLEMS: Early last week, Vermont’s Department of Public Service reported that it had received 271 complaints from FairPoint customers since the strike began. That is a significant increase over the normal number of complaints, an agency official told Vermont Public Radio.

NEW HAMPSHIRE SERVICE PROBLEMS: Granite State media has filed multiple stories about FairPoint’s failing service and even criminal behavior by the company’s replacement workers. Dozens of FairPoint customers in New Hampshire have also reported service problems on a website maintained by the striking workers.

New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission has not yet released figures on the number of FairPoint-related complaints it has received in recent months. But IBEW Local 2320 of New Hampshire will file a formal request today asking that those numbers be made public.

“FairPoint hasn’t even recovered from the last major storm,” said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400. “We’re hearing daily reports of poles and lines still down all over our region. Their unqualified contractors just aren’t up to the job of maintaining our network during a New England winter.”

The FairPoint workers have been in contentious talks with the company for a new contract since April. In August, FairPoint officials abruptly ended negotiations and imposed proposals that slash all workers’ benefits, cut pay for most new employees by more than 20 percent, and make it easier to outsource good jobs to low-wage contractors. Before going on strike in October, the workers spent nearly two months trying to reopen talks with the company.

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.

In Midst of FairPoint Strike, Unnamed Company Luring Telecom Workers to New England with $300,000 Offer

 In “confidential” job posting on Monster.com, unidentified company offering telecom workers $5,000-$6,000 a week to come to New England

Job ad appears more than a month into strike in which FairPoint has struggled to provide service with unqualified contractors

The ad offers a wage that’s more than three times the average salary of striking FairPoint workers

An unidentified company is advertising for telecom workers and offering to pay them more than $300,000 a year to come work in northern New England. Many wonder if the unnamed company is FairPoint, the telecommunications firm that has struggled to maintain service during a strike now in its 39th day.

“FairPoint has been saying we make too much money, but now it looks like they’re offering people more than three times what we make,” said Peter McLaughlin, chair of System Council T-9 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “Instead of settling a fair deal with its skilled workers, FairPoint is squandering tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars on replacement workers who can’t do our jobs.”

Screen shot 2014-11-24 at 1.35.41 PM

Screen shot from MONSTER.COM job listing

In a “confidential” posting on Monster.com, the unidentified company lists the job location as “Merrimack, NH.” The striking workers of FairPoint provide service in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. The full ad can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/n7v43zg

In statements to the media, FairPoint has complained about the salaries of its skilled union workers. FairPoint claims that those workers make an average salary of $82,000 a year. The $5,000 to 6,000 a week salary being offered in the Monster.com ad would amount to annual pay of up to $312,000 a year.

The ad from the unidentified company calls for workers who “are comfortable working at customer premise locations including large banks, hospitals, cellular towers, etc. ” FairPoint maintains service at all those locations.

“It looks like FairPoint is finally learning the real value of its experienced workforce,” said Don Trementozzi, president of Communication Workers of America Local 1400. “Now that they know what we’re worth, it’s time for them to stop wasting money on unqualified workers from out of state and reach a fair deal for New England.”

IN OTHER FAIRPOINT STRIKE NEWS: FairPoint workers will continue their wave of actions for a fair deal today in Washington, D.C. Dozens of demonstrators will hold another protest against the company’s biggest shareholder, Angelo, Gordon & Co.

An official from the Wall Street hedge fund, which owns more than 20 percent of FairPoint stock, will be making a presentation at the National Multifamily Conference and Expo at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washingon. FairPoint workers and their allies will be on the street outside ensuring that the public is fully aware of Angelo, Gordon’s role in the attack on northern New England workers.

Angelo, Gordon manages billions of dollars in assets for public pension funds, but it has refused to publicly intervene as FairPoint has moved to gut the pensions and benefits of its employees.

WASHINGTON ACTION DETAILS

WHEN: Monday, Nov. 25, 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.

WHERE: JW Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

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.

Wave of Actions by FairPoint Strikers Continues Friday in Manchester

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.

Union Picket Lines Stay Strong as FairPoint Stock Price Tumbles

 

IBEW Strikers from Brunswick Maine. (Image Fairness at Fairpoint Facebook)

IBEW Strikers from Brunswick Maine. (Image Fairness at Fairpoint Facebook)

FairPoint stock plunged more than 10% at the end of last week after the company acknowledged strike’s adverse effect in its latest earnings report 

 One day before drop, key financial analyst cited strikers’ continuing strength, warning of “significant negative impact” from “unsettled labor conditions”

FairPoint strikers maintained momentum Saturday with major rally that highlighted N.C.-based company’s attack on good New England jobs

The ongoing strike at FairPoint Communications appears to be spooking investors and taking a toll on the company’s share price. FairPoint’s stock dropped more than 10 percent on Thursday and Friday. (It had dropped another 1.46 percent as of 11:15 a.m. Monday.)

The company’s stock tumbled after FairPoint acknowledged the strike’s adverse impact in its weaker than expected third quarter earnings report last Wednesday. That same day a key financial analyst reported that even after three weeks strikers were not crossing the picket line.

“Our members are not backing down from this fight,” said Peter McLaughlin, chair of System Council T-9 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). “People are not crossing the line because we know the future of good jobs for every worker in New England is at stake.”

The proposals FairPoint has imposed would slash the pay of most new employees by more than 20 percent, undermine the benefits of current workers and eliminate health benefits for retirees who have given the company decades of service.

FairPoint cut off health care coverage for striking workers on Oct. 31. Some analysts predicted that the health care cut-off might cause workers to waver and end the strike.

But on Wednesday, Nov. 5, the same day FairPoint released its earnings report, financial analyst Barry Sine from Drexel Hamilton reported that “only a handful” of workers had crossed the line, and that there had been a “significant negative impact” from “the unsettled labor conditions.” Notably, Sine had earlier been one of the analysts predicting strikers might return to work when FairPoint terminated their health coverage.

“Our members saw this attack coming a long way off, so we were prepared for it,” said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400. “FairPoint CEO Paul H. Sunu was a top official at Hawaiian Telcom when they launched a similar attack on their workers, so we’ve seen this playbook. We’ve been putting away money and bracing ourselves for this for more than a year.”

Roughly 500 striking FairPoint workers and supporters from across the Northeast rallied in Portland’s Monument Square on Saturday. Speakers at the rally recounted the troubled negotiations that led to the strike, which began on Oct. 17. During five months of bargaining that began in April, the North Carolina-based company made no substantive compromises. In August, FairPoint officials abruptly walked away from the table and imposed terms and conditions that include $700 million in savage cuts.

“This North Carolina company has imposed pay and benefit cuts that would turn good middle-class jobs into low-wage jobs with bare-bones benefits,” said Glenn Brackett, business manager of New Hampshire’s IBEW Local 2320. “This contract would also let FairPoint outsource good New England jobs to unqualified contractors from out of state and overseas.”

“All throughout these talks we’ve tried to find common ground with the company,” said Mike Spillane, business manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont. “But they’ve never moved off their demands that would destroy good jobs at FairPoint. We’ve made $200 million in compromises, including a significant sharing of health care costs. It’s time for them to come back to the table with a constructive offer.”

FairPoint and union negotiators will reconvene in Boston on Nov. 18 at a meeting arranged by a federal mediator.

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.

Bernie Sanders Calls For Fairness At FairPoint

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

FairPoint Workers Set the Record Straight in Response to Company’s Misleading Ads

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner

The union workers of FairPoint Communications have issued a letter to newspapers across northern New England. The letter clarifies a number of misleading claims made by FairPoint executives in a full-page advertisement that the company placed in many of the region’s daily newspapers. The text of the workers’ letter is immediately below:

FairPoint and the Future of New England

We were disappointed to see FairPoint executives spend the company’s money on pricey full-page ads in newspapers all across New England on Sunday (“The Future of FairPoint,” Nov. 2).

In the company’s contract talks with us — the union workers of FairPoint — executives have said they don’t have the money to maintain good, middle-class jobs. They claim that they must pay some new workers as little as minimum wage. And yet the company seems to have plenty of money for misleading ads.

In those ads, the company suggests that their fight with us is all about “The Future for FairPoint.” But what’s really at stake here is the future for workers and families all across northern New England.

The draconian contract FairPoint is trying to force on us would undermine job standards for every worker in the region. If FairPoint can turn good telecom jobs into minimum-wage jobs, then all workers are in serious trouble.

We understand that this is a challenging time for both companies and employees. That’s why since April we worked hard in bargaining to help the company be “more nimble and efficient.” In fact, we offered more than $200 million in cost savings to the company in our contract proposals. But instead of working with us to find common ground, the company walked away from the table in August without making a single substantive compromise and keeps insisting on its original proposal of more than $700 million in savage cuts.

FairPoint, a North Carolina-based company largely owned by Wall Street hedge funds, has tried to demonize its New England workers by pointing out the good wages that many of us make. But those good wages have been earned after years of service.

The starting salary for a typical telephone technician in northern New England is roughly $540 a week. As our workers gain experience and become even more skilled, they’re rewarded for those skills with better pay. We think that’s a good thing. After all, FairPoint’s network cannot be maintained by low-paid and poorly skilled employees, as we’ve seen with all the service disruptions that have occurred during our brief strike.

It is deeply painful for us to see customers struggling with the poor service provided by FairPoint’s replacement workers. And these problems are just a preview of what customers will face if FairPoint succeeds in its plans to outsource work to cut-rate contractors.

We may not have the deep pockets of the Wall Street hedge fund managers that own FairPoint, but we have a deep commitment to the people of northern New England. And that’s why we’ll continue fighting until we win a contract that ensures good jobs and quality service for all our customers.

– Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager, IBEW Local 2327, Maine,

Chair of IBEW System Council T-9, Maine, N.H., Vermont

– Glenn Brackett, Business Manager, IBEW Local 2320, New Hampshire

– Mike Spillane, Business Manager, IBEW Local 2326, Vermont

– Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400, Maine, N.H., Vermont

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.

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