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New York State Mayors Join CWA at Bargaining Table, Tell Verizon to Stop Stalling on FiOS

 Elected Officials Representing More Than a Million NYers Write Letters to Verizon Leadership, Demand Action

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

Rye, New York – With days remaining before the contract between Verizon and its 39,000 unionized workers, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo joined the workers at a bargaining session with Verizon in Rye, New York.  At the same time, four other elected officials from across New York State wrote letters calling on Verizon to stop ignoring their communities’ need for high-speed internet and television service. 

The unprecedented visit and supportive letters from the Mayors of Albany, Utica and Rome and the Town Supervisor of Brookhaven demonstrate the common cause between the workers and customers around the state who are fed up with Verizon leaving them behind.  Verizon is refusing to build its state-of-the-art FiOS network in lower-income areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers at the mercy of their local cable monopoly, while at the same time letting its copper landline network deteriorate. 

In New York City, a damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout 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.  

The calls to build out FiOS come as the build-out of FiOS has become a bargaining issue between the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Verizon as they negotiate a new contract.  The contract expires at 12 midnight on Saturday August 1 and covers 39,000 CWA and IBEW represented telephone workers from Massachusetts to Virginia.

Read more about possible Verizon strike and the radio ads CWA is running about “Verizon’s Failure to Develop FiOS Broadband Service.

CWA Launches Radio Ads in Seven Regions Slamming Verizon’s Failure to Develop FiOS Broadband Service

Ads Come as Thousands Rallied Last Saturday to Reject Verizon’s Demands to Eliminate Job Security, Slash Pensions, Increase Health Care Costs

With Days Remaining Before Contract Expiration, CWA and IBEW Demand Good Jobs, Verizon Commitment to Good Service

New York – The Communications Workers of America announced today a series of seven radio ads slamming Verizon’s failure to build out universal FiOS broadband across the East Coast. The 30-second ads are scheduled to begin running Wednesday across NYC/New Jersey, Upstate New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware [full scripts below and audio files can be heard here]. 

Listen to the ad for Massachusetts

The ads come on the heels of an announcement that 86% of Verizon workers voted to authorize a strike if necessary. Their labor contract expires at 12 midnight on Saturday August 1 and covers 39,000 CWA and IBEW represented telephone workers from Massachusetts to Virginia.

“Verizon isn’t doing right by their customers or their workers. The company made $9.6 billion in profits in 2014, and reported $4.4 billion in profits just in the 2015 second quarter alone, yet refuses to build its high-speed FiOS network in numerous areas across Verizon’s footprint, especially in lower-income cities like Baltimore, Buffalo and Bethlehem, PA. At the bargaining table, management has refused to budge off harsh contract demands that unfairly penalize the hard-working men and women who make Verizon work,” said Bob Master, Legislative and Political Director for CWA District One. “We reject these demands, and we’re fighting to ensure that Verizon’s workers and customers get the good jobs and good service they deserve.”

The union and its supporters point 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. 

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. 

And recently, a PSC Staff Report on Telecommunications in NYS found: “Aging copper plant is an issue in both urban areas of New York, where Verizon’s fiber technology may run parallel to copper, as well as in rural areas, where fiber deployment is less prevalent…In many areas of New York City, the legacy copper infrastructure is in such poor condition that copper failures due to weather conditions can cause long delays for service restoration and Commission service quality standards are missed.” 

Background On The State Of Negotiations With Verizon

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.

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The USW Strike & Safety–A Victory for All Workers!

United Steelworkers on Strike

By Matthew D’Amico

Recently there was an important victory for working people. After a six-weeks’ long strike, oil refinery workers at four plants, members of the United Steelworkers (USW), and Shell Oil came to an agreement on a potential contract. The union cited a number of reasons for striking. Of course wages and the cost of medical insurance were issues. But even more in dispute was the continuing practice by oil companies of reducing the number of men and women working at their refineries, which means that the remaining workers have to do the jobs of those let go and toil longer hours. This invariably leads to fatigue and jeopardizes the safety of both employees and the surrounding communities. In addition, the companies were also using some outside contractors who do not have the same training and skill levels of long-time union employees. All of this directly affects safety. While there continue to be strikes at some of the plants—including BP in Illinois, which has yet to meet the local union’s demands—the contract agreed to represents a major win for labor. Said USW International President Leo Gerard:

“We salute the solidarity exhibited by our membership. There was no way we would have won vast improvements in safety and staffing without it.”

Working at an oil refinery is difficult and frequently dangerous work. Persons work with heavy equipment and a natural resource, oil, which is volatile and highly flammable. An explosion at a BP refinery outside Houston in 2005 killed 15 workers and injured nearly 200. Regulators found BP responsible for knowingly violating safety protocols, and imposed millions in fines. Yet four years later,OSHA found 700 additional violations (NYT 10/30/09) and fined the company $87 million more for not correcting the violations that had caused the first explosion. In an article in Labor Notes by Stephanie Winslow there is this:

“‘We have a lot of forced overtime,said Dave Martin, vice president of the local striking the Marathon refinery in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. That was one of the main issues in the Texas explosion: people working overtime and not making the right decisions.’”

As a political coordinator for a public employee union, I have seen the urgent importance of ensuring workplace safety for employees. The members I represent work in hospitals, courts, parks, and there have been many instances of men and women being injured or even killed on the job. When accidents happen, union health and safety specialists investigate to make sure job sites are made safer. However, there is an important difference between employment in the public sector versus the private sector: the basis of work in the public sector isn’t to make a profit. In these years, however, some state governments have beenprivatizing public services in order to help private businesses. Why this union-busting practice—which affects safety—is on the increase is explained by Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by philosopher and critic Eli Siegel.

In the 1970s, he showed in a series of groundbreaking lectures that our economy—which is based on contemptuously seeing the labor of people as a means of profit for a few—had failed because it’s unethical and inefficient. The evidence of the last decades has confirmed what Mr. Siegel explained. I’ve learned that today the only way our profit-based economy can function is by having people poorer and more desperate for work, and by attacking unions and undermining the gains for which they’ve fought so hard. These gains include the right to safety on the job.

Historically, employers have not given a damn about safe working conditions. This brutal way of seeing is explained by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, in the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known. Discussing a deadly 2010 coal mining explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 miners, Ms. Reiss writes: According to the New York Times, the company (Massey Energy) had a history of serious and significant safety violations.” Further, she explains:

The company ‘failed to correct’ [safety] problems for only one reason: it would have had to spend money to do so. Every cent a company spends on behalf of workers’ safety is a cent that can’t go into the pockets of the stockholders. In the…New York Times a miner is quoted commenting on why owners ignore safety laws: ‘If you take 30 minutes out of the day doing it right, that takes a lot out of the tonnage of the mine’…The profit system encourages the desire to let people work in conditions that could sicken them and kill them, because that way oneself will have more money.

“The history of industry shows that owners left to themselves have paid workers in a way that made for agonizing poverty. Unions changed that; and also insisted, to the owners’ intense opposition and chagrin, that safety measures be instituted. The United Mine Workers of America is eminent in the history of unions. American men and women in West Virginia and elsewhere fought hard and long and bravely, even gave their lives, so that mines could be unionized—so miners would not be impoverished and hungry; so there would be measures preventing mine collapses and explosions, and measures lessening the extent to which miners took into their lungs the coal dust that had sickened and killed so many.

“The Upper Big Branch mine, where the deadly explosion occurred, was a non-union mine. And that disaster in itself should be enough to have America see how needed and deeply beautiful unions are.

This safety is part of what the members of the United Steelworkers were fighting for as they went on strike at American oil refineries. The tentative contract agreed to stipulates that there will be a review of staffing and workload assignments, one of the main points the strikers were fighting for. Their very lives depend on their workplaces being safe.

Strikes, Unions, and the Victory of Ethics!

At one time strikes by organized labor were much more prevalent than today. However, in recent years, there have been increasing efforts to keep our profit economy going at the expense of working people. Unions today are under assault from big business working with state governments which provide huge tax breaks and other incentives to profit making corporations. A growing number of states are now “Right to Work,” which makes paying union dues voluntary. I agree with Ellen Reiss who, in issues ofThe Right Of, has been showing that we have come to a point in history where a profit economy can no longer function efficiently if workers are to be paid fairly, have health benefits, pensions, safe conditions—all things that unions stand for. People must be impoverished for profit economics to continue. The alternative is an economy, based not on selfishness, greed, and contempt, but on ethics, on giving people the justice they deserve.

The successful strike by the oil refinery workers is on behalf of that justice and shows that unions still have power. And that’s not all. There have been recent union victories which have gotten little media attention. At FairPoint Communications, members of CWA and IBEW who went on strike late last year in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, got a decent contract last month. Brooklyn Cablevision workers, members of CWA, after a three-year battle, signed a contract with the company—becoming the first employees there to have a union contract. And UAW, representing graduate students at New York University, reached a contract agreement this month. These victories illustrate the rightness of Eli Siegel’s statement: Ethics is a force like electricity, steam, the atom—and will have its way.

 

Originally posted on Unions Matter

USW Reaches Tentative Agreement with Oil Industry; Agreement with Shell Sets Pattern for Industry





(Pittsburgh) – The United Steelworkers (USW) announced today that it has reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract with Shell Oil as a pattern agreement for the rest of the industry.  The agreement accomplishes the major goals as directed by the USW’s oil conference in October of last year, and has been approved by union’s lead negotiators and National Oil Bargaining Policy (NOBP) Committee.

“We salute the solidarity exhibited by our membership,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “There was no way we would have won vast improvements in safety and staffing without it.”

Safety issues were central to the negotiations, and the proposed agreement calls for the immediate review of staffing and workload assessments, with USW safety personnel involved at every facility. Daily maintenance and repair work in the plants was another critical issue that, too, was addressed.

“The new agreement calls for joint review on the local level of future, craft worker staffing- needs,” said USW International Vice President Tom Conway. “Included are hiring plans to be developed in conjunction with recruitment and training programs.”

The tentative agreement calls for yearly wages increases as well as maintaining the current health care plan cost-sharing ratio.

“Preserving “retrogression” clauses in our agreements was also an objective established by our policy conference and we accomplished that, too,” said USW International Vice President Gary Beevers, who oversees the union’s oil sector. “There was no way we could turn our backs to the accomplishments of prior contract negotiations.”

The next step in the bargaining process is for the company to put the terms of the settlement agreement on all of the Shell and Motiva bargaining tables. Our expectation is that other employers will offer the same terms at their local bargaining tables.

The local unions will then review the employers’ proposals with Vice President Beevers. Approved settlement agreements are then submitted to the local membership for explanation and ratification votes.

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed among industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, plus the service and public sectors. For more information: http://www.usw.org

Union Members Approve Of Agreement With FairPoint And Completely End Strike

Workers to Return to Work on Wednesday, February 25

AUGUSTA, ME—After three days of voting, IBEW and CWA members in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have ratified tentative agreements with FairPoint Communications. The new agreements protect good jobs and ensure quality telecommunications service for New England communities.

“This is great news for our members, their families, and our communities,” said Peter McLaughlin, chair of the union bargaining committee and Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. “Our members remained united and committed to this fight for more than four months and today we have a fair deal that will bring them back to work and good service back to our communities.”

After initially demanding $700 million in concessions from workers, FairPoint implemented the terms of its proposals on August 28 saying the parties had reached an impasse in bargaining. The implemented terms included a dramatic increase in health care costs, a two-tier wage structure that would have paid new hires as much as 20 percent less to do the same jobs as current workers, and a greatly increased ability to outsource union members’ work to low-wage contractors from outside our region.

Ultimately, FairPoint agreed to a union-administered health insurance plan with better benefits that will cost workers and the company less. FairPoint also agreed to eliminate the two-tier wage structure.

“This agreement is a win for our members and for future FairPoint employees,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “We went on strike last October because we are committed to keeping good, middle-class jobs in New England. Our members walked the lines for more than four months, not just for themselves, but for future generations. Our success will benefit FairPoint workers—and New England’s working families—for years to come.”

The unions also successfully negotiated to protect jobs from outsourcing. During the strike, FairPoint brought in replacement contract workers to do the jobs of experienced, union workers. Complaints skyrocketed in all three states as customers experienced inadequate service, delays for repairs and installations, and increased wait times when calling customer service.

“Our communities have seen the results of outsourcing these last four months, and it has not been pretty,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire.  “There’s no replacement for well-trained, skilled workers. Our members are eager to get back to work and get our network functioning the way it should.

Approximately 1,800 FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont launched their strike on October 17. The longest strike in the United States in 2014, workers picketed for 18 weeks.

“Our members are incredible. They walked the picket lines in blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. They stayed strong and they stayed together,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont.

The strikers enjoyed widespread support from their communities and from thousands of allies around the world. Lawmakers in all three states walked the picket lines with members; individuals delivered hot beverages and snacks to picketers; and people and organizations contributed more than $350,000 to the Solidarity Fund to provide financial aid for striking workers to pay for everything from prescription medicine to heating oil.

“The support we’ve received over the past four months has been overwhelming,” said McLaughlin. “Union brothers and sisters from all over the country sent financial help and messages of support. And our friends and neighbors right here in New England showed us their appreciation for our sacrifice every day. They knew that our members were not just striking to protect their own jobs, but that they were fighting for good jobs and quality service for all of New England.”

The new contracts will be in effect until August 4, 2018.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,500 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.

Patrick D. Longley: Standing Strong While We Strike Against FairPoint

By Patrick D. Longley 

Patrick on Day 1 and Day 75

Patrick on Day 1 and Day 75

I wrote this essay after being on strike for just a few weeks. It has now been over three months. At the time this was written, I was experiencing many of the same feelings that are now a part of my daily routine: fear, uncertainty, and disappointment; however, these days there is deeper anger and stronger resolve. The strength and unity of the IBEW and CWA throughout this strike is inspirational and historical. While this essay is very personal, I feel that it is representative of the fight we are all actively participating in – as a union.

November 2014

I was hired for employment as a Splice-Service Technician for Bell Atlantic on August 3, 1998. I was happy to have secured a union job with the potential to provide me with a good life. I started my career in Fitchburg, MA at a garage that was within walking distance of my apartment. I was assigned to the oldest open-back utility truck in the fleet, an early ‘80s three-speed manual GMC with over 200,000 hard miles on it. Seasoned technicians from the monopoly-era New England Telephone Company trained me. The early years were learning years. I accepted that in order to make a life for myself I had to be realistic and settle into a job that perhaps was not aligned with my “dreams,” but would be tolerable if not gratifying.

As it turned out, I found much gratification in this job, most notably through interactions with customers. In 2004, I leaped at an opportunity to transfer job location to Milton, VT. I’ve felt privileged to live within the beauty of Vermont’s landscape. I have become well acquainted with many of the towns in Northern Vermont and have been in many homes throughout Chittenden, Franklin, and Lamoille Counties. I have always tried to be respectful to each customer that I visit. Respect is the foundation of good working relationships.

In 2008, FairPoint Communications took over as my employer. They made many promises but the transition made my job less gratifying. Problems with systems caused service delays and unsatisfied customers. On October 26, 2009, FairPoint Communications filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection. The company emerged from bankruptcy in January 2011, thanks in large part due to tireless efforts by its union workforce.

Rainy October 18In April 2014, with a contract set to expire in August, the IBEW and CWA (the unions which represent FairPoint’s workforce) formed a bargaining committee with the goal of negotiating a contract that would be fair for both parties. The unions presented comprehensive proposals that would have saved the company $200 million. Throughout the process, FairPoint did not actively participate in meaningful negotiation. The company’s unwillingness to negotiate demonstrated disrespect for its employees. In May, 25 percent of us in the Milton garage were forced to take on a new shift with only 2 weeks notice. This inconvenience to workers and our families seemed born of spite rather than a necessity of the business.

When our contract expired on August 2 of this year, the company and the union agreed to work under the old contract for an undetermined time period. But at the end of the month, the company declared an impasse and imposed an invariable contract devoid of compromise. The union filed unfair labor charges with the National Labor Relations Board. The climate at work was in no way gratifying.

As weeks progressed, the unions continued to attempt negotiation. FairPoint’s representatives maintained rigid adherence to their original proposal. The workload was heavy and so was the stress of the whole situation. The company’s demonstrated disrespect for its workforce was taking its toll on those of us who maintain the network.

On October 16, the union and the company met and no compromise was met. The union called a strike and on Friday the 17th I was walking the picket line in Milton. The company claimed that strikers “jammed” call center phone lines and caused service interruptions by vandalizing equipment. No evidence was ever presented. A full-page advertisement was placed in major newspapers stating that the average FairPoint worker is paid $115,000 annually – a blatant embellishment. (Before the strike, I had worked over 400 hours of overtime and, even so, fell far below that salary.)

Since this strike commenced, I’ve heard all the pro-union and anti-union arguments. I’ve read horribly negative remarks by the uninformed. I’ve had middle fingers pointed in my face. I’ve witnessed replacement workers doing my work in an inefficient and unsafe manner. But what sticks with me most is the support I’ve received from my fellow workers and our community. As a union, we are standing strong while facing middle fingers and invective. We are documenting unsafe work practices by replacement workers. We are making our case and receiving positive support from our elected officials. On October 28, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders held a press conference at his office in Burlington urging FairPoint to get back to the bargaining table. Governor Peter Shumlin made an encouraging visit to a picket line in St. Albans and listened to some of my fellow worker’s side of the story. It is time for FairPoint to show some support for its union workforce and focus on real negotiation. Respect is the foundation of good working relationships.

 

Patrick D. Longley

Underhill,VT

 

FairPoint Is Failing Our Communities

Fire Alarm (Matthew Ragan CC Flikr)

Fire Alarm (Matthew Ragan CC Flikr)

Since October 17 — more than 60 days ago — workers from FairPoint Communications have been out on strike. Nearly 2,000 workers spread across three states have chosen to stand up to a company that is putting profits before the people of New England.

Rather than come to a fair agreement with their employees, FairPoint executives have continued to insist on $700 million in devastating cuts. The workers have made compromises — offering a health care package that would save the company $7 million a year — but the company keeps insisting on a contract that would turn good middle-class jobs into low-wage jobs with meager benefits.

We all want this strike to end. Many of us have friends who work for FairPoint and have not received a paycheck in two months.  FairPoint has also stripped workers of their healthcare coverage, leaving them completely out in the cold.

Is that really how you treat dedicated workers after years and years of service?

There is another reason that FairPoint should end this strike now: the safety of our communities is at risk.

Since the strike began, FairPoint has been hiring replacement workers to help keep services up.  These replacement workers have been a disaster for FairPoint and the communities they serve.

Customers have gone weeks without phone and Internet access, waiting for FairPoint’s replacement workers to fix their service.  A friend told me two weeks after the strike began that she was switching phone companies because she couldn’t wait any longer for FairPoint to come and fix her phone lines.

These outages are not just affecting people’s homes, they are beginning to affect our schools and emergency services. On Dec 10, the principal of the Cape Elizabeth High School in Maine sent an email to parents warning that “for the past couple of weeks…outside callers to the school experience a never-ending, never-answered ringing sound and then are never put into voice mail.”

Imagine if this was your child’s school.  Imagine if there was an emergency and the school administrators could not call out.  Without phone service, building fire alarms would not alert local firefighters of an emergency. This is a serious problem!

It gets much, much worse.  On November 28, a break in a FairPoint line caused a five hour outage in Vermont’s E-911 system. Due to the outage, over 80 emergency calls were missed.

“We saw our state’s 911 system go down two weeks ago, so we know firsthand how serious this crisis has become,” said Mike Spillane, business manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont.

On December 3, the Portsmouth Police Department was forced to have their calls rerouted through the Concord Police Department dispatch, when Portsmouth’s E-911 system failed due to a FairPoint line outage.  On the same day, problems with FairPoint’s network caused issues for the Exeter Police Department and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Department – for the second time in three months.

We need the skilled, experienced workers from FairPoint back on the job.  We need people with the knowledge and experience to repair these problems before they become worse.

“The executives back in North Carolina don’t have to live with the chaos they’ve caused by attacking their skilled workers here in New England,” said Glenn Brackett, business manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire. “Our 911 systems, our phones and our Internet are failing because their out-of-state contractors can’t do the work.”

For the health and safety of our communities, FairPoint executives need to get back to the bargaining table with the IBEW and CWA and settle this contract dispute now.

IBEW And CWA FairPoint Strikers Rally In Concord (InZane Times)

“One Day Longer, One Day Stronger”

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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 PC190063Brackett 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

“How long will the State of New Hampshire allow its public safety to be threatened by a company frPC190054om North Carolina?,” Brackett asked. 

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 tauntedPC190065 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 PC190064economy, 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.

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Christmas Comes Early for Children of FairPoint Strikers

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner

 More than 1,000 toys and gift cards donated to children of FairPoint strikers are being distributed in Portsmouth today

 Public support for strikers is surging; in addition to toy drive, strike relief fund has received nearly $200,000 in donations

 With strike entering its tenth week, FairPoint families say they have the support to go One Day Longer, One Day Stronger

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Santa Claus is coming early for the children of striking workers at FairPoint Communications. More than 1,000 toys and gift cards donated to a union toy drive are being distributed today at the CWA union hall in Portsmouth.

The overwhelming response to the online toy drive marks the latest surge in support for the FairPoint strikers. In addition to the toy drive, the relief fund for the workers — who belong to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) — has received nearly $200,000 in donations since the strike began on October 17.

“This incredible outpouring of support is going to make the holidays a whole lot happier for our families,” said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400, which sponsored the toy drive. “Two months ago, we took a stand against corporate greed. And now, to see so many people standing up for us — and especially our kids — it gives you the strength to go one day longer and one stronger.”

The toys will be distributed to the children of strikers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, the three states served by the FairPoint workers.

The workers have been on strike since October 17. They began negotiations for a new contract in April, and from the outset FairPoint executives pressed for $700 million in deep and damaging cuts. The workers have offered more than $200 million in cost-saving compromises, but FairPoint has refused to modify its initial demand for cuts.

In August, the company walked away from bargaining and imposed the terms and conditions of its offer. Those terms slash benefits for current workers, impose deep pay cuts on new employees and promote the outsourcing of good jobs to poorly paid and unqualified contractors.

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.

Help Save Christmas For The Children Of Striking FairPoint Workers

Fairpoint Strikers

Image from CWA 1400

When the IBEW and CWA workers said they were about to go on strike against FairPoint communications, I knew they were in for a long fight. The decision to walk is not an easy one. Workers weigh the decision to walk against their personal financial situation. How long can we afford to go without pay?

A strike can be especially hard on the children of the striking workers. Some older children understand the reasoning behind the strike, others just know that mommy or daddy are not getting paid right now.

Many workers have already begun to inform their children that Christmas is going to be very, very small this year. Buying gifts falls way down on the list of priorities when you are on strike. Just keeping the roof over your head and the food in the fridge become serious issues.

This is where you and I can help save Christmas for hundreds of children.

CWA 1400 has compiled a wish list of gifts on Amazon for the children of CWA 1400 members who are currently on strike.   There are hundreds of items to choose from, and every gift will bring a smile to child’s face this Christmas.

After you purchase the gift through Amazon, have it shipped directly to the CWA Hall at:

CWA Local 1400
Christmas Gifts
155 West Rd
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Help make the holiday season bright by buying a few items for the children of these striking workers.

No gift is to big or to small, and every gift is special. Help to keep the magic of Christmas alive by spending a few dollars buying gifts for children who otherwise won’t be getting anything this year.

How To Help The 1,700 IBEW FairPoint Strikers

IBEW 2320 (NH), IBEW 2327 (ME), and IBEW 2326 (VT) represent over 1,700 workers who are also out on strike against FairPoint. Support for their members comes directly from the union and from the generous donations to their IBEW-CWA Strike Fund.

Click Here to make a donation to the IBEW-CWA Strike Fund. 

Many people have generously supported the strike fund, and we thank you, but I am still going to ask you to make another donation.  These funds are being used to help the families of FairPoint strikers this holiday season.  (For FairPoint IBEW members, contact your local picket captains or you local hall directly for assistance with gifts this Christmas.)

Can you help by skipping that lunch out tomorrow and make a $10 donation to the IBEW-CWA strike fund?

Click Here to make a donation to the IBEW-CWA Strike Fund.

For local New Englanders there are even more ways to help.

If you live near one of the many strike lines, please stop by and show your support. Hold a sign for a while. Bring a box of Joe or a couple of Pizzas to show your support as they stand out in the cold.

The IBEW and CWA are also asking for people to drop off gift cards to local grocery stores and gas stations.

This holiday season dig deep and give a little extra to our brothers and sisters standing up for their rights against a greedy corporation who would rather outsource their jobs, than settle their contract disputes.

 

Direct link to Amazon Wish List:
http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/3K9M7LYHZI8LL/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_wsv_e0AGub1FVYHWT

Link to IBEW-CWA Strike Fund: http://www.gofundme.com/IBEW-CWA-Strike-Relief

 

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