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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.

FairPoint Strike Becoming Major Election Issue in Northern New England on Campaign’s Final Weekend

Fairness at Fairpoint Vigil

Fight for good jobs by 2,000 FairPoint workers is impacting races in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont

With FairPoint poised to cut off workers’ health coverage on Halloween, the threat to region’s middle-class is a frightening reality pols can’t ignore

MANCHESTER, N.H.—In the final weekend before Tuesday’s election, the strike at FairPoint Communications has become a major issue in races across northern New England. The two-week-old strike by nearly 2,000 union workers has drawn candidates to the picket lines in all three states and factored in New Hampshire’s final gubernatorial debate.

“We’re not looking to get rich, we’re just looking to sustain our families.  We offered the company a compromise that would save them millions in health care costs, but they refused. We’ve got to stand up for our families and for good jobs.”

The dispute at FairPoint is set to get even more intense on Halloween, as the company has announced it will cut off striking workers’ health care coverage at midnight. With the strike—and the election campaign—heating up, following is an overview of the role the strike has played in the region’s races:

New Hampshire – In the Granite State debate on Wednesday, both gubernatorial candidates were asked about their stance on the FairPoint strike. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan offered strong support for the strikers, saying “these are workers who for the last three years have been helping FairPoint recover from bankruptcy, working incredibly hard to get the company back on its feet.”

Hassan went on to say, “I’ll continue to urge this North Carolina company to think about New Hampshire-specific solutions and the New Hampshire workers who are really trying to come to the table and work with the company.”

Republican challenger Walt Havenstein initially hedged his response to the FairPoint question, saying “both sides are right.” But Havenstein went on to say of the workers that he “respected their right to negotiate.”

Vermont – On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch issued a letter to FairPoint CEO Paul H. Sunu noting that he’d “visited with those walking the picket line in Burlington” and heard their “passionate commitment to customer service.” Welch said, “I strongly urge you to return to the bargaining table in good faith and find common ground with the working men and women of your company.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, though not up for re-election, held a press conference with FairPoint strikers on Wednesday and criticized the telecom firm for “putting the interests of the multi-billion dollar hedge fund companies who own the company ahead of its workers and customers.”

MaineU.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree has made multiple visits to FairPoint picket lines, as have Democratic candidate for governor Mike Michaud, Senate candidate Shenna Bellows, and congressional candidate Emily Cain.

The FairPoint workers—members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T9 and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400—have been encouraged by the high profile attention the strike has received.

“It’s great to see that we’ve got so many allies in this fight,” said Todd Bedard, a FairPoint service technician in New Hampshire and a member of IBEW Local 2320. “The company’s move to cut off our health care coverage shows that they’re out to gut good jobs in northern New England. But we’ve been preparing for this fight, so we’ve got our money saved and our friends standing with us, so we’re not going away.”

“The stakes in this strike are becoming very clear,” said Nicole Johnston, a FairPoint customer service representative in Bangor, Maine, and a member of CWA Local 1400. “If a telecom company can cut benefits to the bone, then no middle-class worker is safe. I grew up in a phone company family, so these were the benefits that gave us a good life. But what am I going to do for my daughters if our health care goes away?”

“We’re not looking to get rich, we’re just looking to sustain our families,” said Mike Gauthier, a FairPoint service technician in Brattleboro, Vt., and a member of IBEW Local 2326. “We offered the company a compromise that would save them millions in health care costs, but they refused. We’ve got to stand up for our families and for good jobs.”

Contract talks at FairPoint began on April 25 when the company came to the table with proposals that would cost workers more than $700 million. The company sought to freeze pensions, dramatically 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 outsource union members’ work to out-of-state and foreign contractors.

Though the workers offered compromises worth more than $200 million in savings for the company, the company rejected every significant union proposal. The company declared an impasse on August 27 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.

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

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.”

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