“One Day Longer, One Day Stronger”
With an inflatable corporate pig hovering behind them, hundreds of IBEW and CWA members with their allies rallied at the State House yesterday calling for a fair contract with FairPoint Communications.
The two unions went on strike ten weeks ago following months of frustrated bargaining before and after their contract expired on August 2.
“In April, FairPoint came out with their one contract proposal,” IBEW leader Glenn Brackett said, waving his index finger while speaking from a stage attached to a Teamsters truck parked next to the State House.
The unions made three comprehensive proposals and even offered $200 million in concessions, Brackett said. But the company has refused to deal and lied to the public along the way.
Meanwhile, hundreds of consumers have complained to the Public Utilities Commission that the company, which took over Verizon’s New Hampshire landlines in 2008, is not providing the services for which it is getting paid. Vermont’s E-911 system has been among the casualties, as has the City of Nashua’s internet service.
“This company has no credibility,” Brackett charged.
“The corporation is in North Carolina and this morning they have internet. They’ve got 911 and their telephones work,” Brackett said. “Why? Because FairPoint does not provide services to the communities in which their executives live.” [see video]
Strikers and supporters took a few circuits around the State House lawn, chanting and chatting, while Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and retired IBEW member Linda Horan greeted them as they went by. Other political figures in the crowd included State Representative Renny Cushing and State Senators Jeff Woodburn, Donna Soucy, and Lou D’Allesandro.
The crowd left the State House at about 12:30 pm and walked a few blocks to the FairPoint office on South Street, where they chanted some more and taunted strikebreakers who were looking down from company windows.
The conflict is not just about wages and benefits. Central to FairPoint’s strategy is its intent to outsource jobs now held by union members. The unions points out that the service problems consumers are experiencing now will become the norm if FairPoint can hire unqualified contractors to perform functions now carried out by experienced union workers.
The conflict over contracting out is emblematic of developments in the larger economy, where outsourcing via staffing agencies is becoming the norm in ever larger sectors of the labor market. Strong unions are about all that stops the slide toward a disposable workforce.
That may be why clergy from the United Church of Christ have decided to speak up about the FairPoint strike. In a column published in the Valley News, they wrote:
So here we are today: hedge fund corporate owners versus dedicated New Hampshire (and Maine and Vermont) workers who have the courage to take a stand to protect the kinds of jobs that sustain families and strong communities. Shades of Moses standing up against Pharaoh’s hard heart, perhaps? Or David versus Goliath? Or Jesus challenging the greedy money changers?
According to the Concord Monitor, a spokesperson for Governor Maggie Hassan said she is “concerned about the disruption in FairPoint services and its impact on the state’s communications infrastructure, our public safety systems and economy, as well as the company’s overall commitment to the people and businesses of New Hampshire.”
“One day longer, one day stronger,” the strikers chanted. That’s great spirit, but some emergency funds for workers on strike more than two months will help. You can contribute to the IBEW/CWA Solidarity Fund by clicking here.