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

cwa-stand-up-for-workers

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

Union leaders say company still refusing to compromise on any proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

FairPoint Strike On Hold As Talks Continue — From InZane Times

Image by Arnie Alpert

 

Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

A strike by Fairpoint workers is still possible but negotiations have not ended, a union spokesperson announced an hour short of the strike deadline this evening.  “Make no mistake, this fight is not

Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

over,” Glenn Brackett of the IBEWtold a hundred or so union members and allies outside Fairpoint’s downtown Manchester office at 11 pm. “We will continue to mobilize until we get a contract that’s fair.”

Brackett said workers should return to work but that a strike could be called at any time.  Terms and conditions of the expired contract will remain in effect while negotiations continue.

“The company has been very unresponsive to many of the major proposals we have made,” Bracket said, adding that the company’s attitude has been dismissive and antagonistic.  

 

Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

He explained that the company had turned down a union proposal that would have saved the company millions of dollars.  

Fairpoint workers are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America.

 

 

 

Long Island Railroad Labor Dispute Could Leave Thousands Stranded

SMART Protest
SMART Protest

June 21 Rally to end the LIRR Strike.  Image from SMART Facebook

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) members who keep the Long Island Railroad running are about to walk off the job in strike.  The SMART members have been in a bitter labor dispute for months with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) over the MTA’s demand for benefit cuts and mandatory concessions.

“MTA management has rejected recommendations from two Presidential Emergency Boards that would end the dispute,” wrote Paul Pimentel, communication representative for SMART in an email to the NH Labor News. “Union members ask for nothing more than what both these neutral federal boards have already recommended.  “Rejecting the findings of a Presidential Emergency Board would be unprecedented and would create uncertainty for future events that involve similar mediation efforts.”

Workers have agreed that July 20th with be the day that the strike will begin, if MTA does not work with SMART to resolve their dispute.  A work stoppage would cripple Long Island, stopping millions of people from getting to work, and tourists from visiting the luxurious Long Island beaches.

The MTA boasts that over 2 billion people ride the MTA every single year.  How many of those people are coming from or going to Long Island?

“SMART and its partner unions have no interest in a work stoppage that would hurt Long Island Rail Road riders and small businesses dependent on tourism during the crucial summer months,” wrote Pimentel.

This dispute could be solved with strong leadership from New York’s Governor Mario Cuomo.  Gov. Cuomo, who is pursuing a possible run for the Democratic nomination for President, has yet to get involved in this dispute.  Even after a group of Democratic and Republican State and Federal leaders sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and the MTA Chairman Prendergast to end this dispute before any harm comes to the people of Long Island.

What is Governor Cuomo waiting for? Does he really want to see thousands of people stranded as the trains stop moving?

Take a moment and tell Governor Cuomo to step up and show what a true leader is by ending this dispute before any work stoppage occurs.  Send him a letter by clicking here.

 

The “Fight For Fifteen” Spurs Protests Around The World

Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

photoYesterday hundreds of workers across the country walked off the jobs in protest, demanding higher wages from their multi-billion dollar restaurant employers.

Workers from McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC and other restaurants participated in a national day of action calling for a $15 wage and the ability to form and join unions.

The USA Today posted a great article highlighting some of the events across the country.

“At the end of the day, there is more than enough money to pay these workers $15 an hour,” says Kendall Fells, 34, the leader of Fast Food Forward, who marched with the protesters in New York.”

McDonalds workers in Orlando were treated to a refreshing shower when the McDonalds management turned on their laws sprinklers.

In an ironic twist, McDonalds violated local water ordnances when they turned the sprinklers on the protesters.

(See an additional image on Instagram of what appears to be the manager turning on the sprinkler)

“Working families everywhere are inspired by the spirit and the courage of fast food workers who are striking today in over 150 cities,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.  “Every worker deserves fair wages and the right to form a union without retaliation because no one who works full time should struggle to support their family. That’s why the ‘Fight for Fifteen’ movement is growing bigger and protests are happening across America and six different continents. The message is clear: corporations should pay their employees fair wages and Congress should act so no one gets left behind. Only then will we have an economy that works for all working people.”

In a show of solidarity, workers around the world went of strike with US workers.

The USA Today reports:

“In Europe, Lorenz Keller, who works for the Swiss trade union Unia, said that union members were protesting at several McDonald’s stores in Zurich and planned actions in Geneva.

Banner-waving activists in New Zealand were the first to hit the streets on Thursday, at a McDonald’s in Auckland.

In the Philippines, young protesters held a singing and dancing flash mob inside a McDonald’s on Manila’s Quezon Avenue during the morning rush-hour.

In South Korea, activists gathered outside a McDonald’s in Seoul, including one protester dressed as Ronald McDonald.

In Japan, co-organizer Manabu Natori, who tried but failed to find a Ronald costume in time, was encouraged by the public response to the minimum-wage protest outside a downtown Tokyo McDonald’s.”

Fast Food Forward organized the worldwide walkout in conjunction with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  After the protests SEIU President Mary Kay Henry released the following statement:

Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

“The fast food worker movement is a story about hope. It gets bigger as each month goes by because a growing number of Americans are worried about finding jobs that pay enough to live on.

“Americans know that it’s wrong that so many families have no financial security, no matter how hard they work. 

“Americans know that inequality is destabilizing the economy. Communities are out of balance because of the falling wage floor.

“These workers are fighting for $15 per hour because that’s a wage that will allow them to cover their basic needs and help lift our entire economy. By putting more money into the pockets of workers in fast-growing service sector jobs, we can get our economy moving again and rebuild the middle class.

“The movement continues to gain support and these workers are determined to fight for a better life and to stick together in a union. We are all better off when people whose work makes their companies profitable share in the success their work creates.”

NH Union Leader’s Demands Lead Manchester Newspaper Guild To Launch A ‘Byline Strike’

The Newspaper Guild

The Newspaper GuildFighting back against “the worst contract proposal ever seen,” the Manchester Guild mobilization committee is launching a byline strike effective Wednesday. “We need to push back to get a better offer. To alert the publisher to our unity and strength, and to get the attention of the public, the local is asking all reporters and photographers to withhold their bylines and credit lines beginning with the editions of Wednesday, Feb. 5 (to coincide with bargaining), continuing through the editions of Saturday, Feb. 15.,” the committee says in an email to members.

Local officers subsequently described the contract proposal in more detail:

This is a “third” offer from the company, and takes giant steps back from the “Option 2″ we never even got to discuss.

Presented Jan. 22, the one-year “deal” would include:

An 18% pay cut, RETROACTIVE to Jan. 5, to be paid back in 10 equal installments, and subject to payroll taxes for a second time;

–A hike in insurance deductibles from $1,250 to $3,000 for single (non-union it’s $2,000) and from $2,500 to $6,000 family (non-union it’s $5,000);

Gutting of seniority language in event of layoff, giving publisher choice of who to lay off “in good faith” as to ability with no regard to seniority and elimination of the rehire list.

–This gem, which I’ll quote, and which seems to eliminate even lost time for local officials to defend the contract and our members…”Bargaining unit members shall not conduct union business during their assigned working hours without the express approval of the Publisher or his representative.”

The first option presented in September would have totally gutted our contract (and included the layoff and anti-union language). Members rejected that unanimously. Option 2 was to become the company’s only proposal as of Jan. 1. Bargaining dates on Jan. 2 and Jan. 21 were snowed out, so it never even made it to the table to be discussed as such. Then came this. It’s like we’re being punished for the weather.

SIEU President Mary Kay Henry Goes On The Colbert Report

Mary Kay Henry on Colbert

The Internet is a wonderful place.  If you miss something your friends will definitely let you know.  To prove my point, I must have seen this clip from the Colbert Report go by on Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media I monitor at least a dozen times before I finally clicked on it.

The clip is of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry discussing why the SEIU is helping the fast-food workers strike for better wages and benefits.

Even though we all know Steven Colbert is a political ‘lefty’ his show presents it from the hardcore right perspective.  The interview begins with the most common myth about fast food workers. He asked why are “low wage workers striking, they are just teenagers.”
This is the same statement that every opponent to a living wage uses.  That may have been the case 30 years ago when America was full of good middle class jobs.  That is not the case anymore.  Mary Kay Henry said  “28 years old.”  That’s right the average age of a low-wage restaurant worker in 28 years old.

Here are some of the other notable moments from the interview:
We are proud to stand with the fast food workers who are asking corporation making record profits to pay them a living wage.” – Mary Kay Henry

$5.5 Billion dollars in profits at McDonalds just this past year, workers are working hard and cannot make ends meet.” – Mary Kay Henry

We cannot have a strong economic recovery if workers do not have money in their pockets so they can buy goods and services so that those companies can hire more people and we can have an economy that works for everyone in this company not just the corporations.” – Mary Kay Henry

However my favorite line of the interview comes from Steven Colbert.  Every word is just dripping with snark and sarcasm.

“You have heard Fast Food called a guilty pleasure.  Part of the guilt I feel is because I know they are being treated so poorly.”

Mary Kay Henry summed it all up perfectly when she closed with:

“People should be able to work hard, get by, and get ahead. That is the promise we made to every worker in this country”

The Colbert Report

MAINE: Join Us For Personal Members Accounts Of What Happened To Take Down Twinkies

Hostess Strike BCTGM

Hostess Strike BCTGM

Everyone is invited to a very special event in Portland Maine.

Event: Bakers and Bankers-Who Really Keeps the Dough?

Date: Wednesday, April 3rd. 7pm.

Location: University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine. Wishcamper Center room #133

The workers of the Hostess plant in Biddeford, Maine will put their side of the story front and center this coming Wednesday.  Mike Hummell (a 14 year Hostess BCTGM worker from Lexena, KS) has graciously agreed to join the panel by the Southern Maine Labor Council to discuss the pension theft and how the company portrayed the issue in the media versus reality.

“I also hope to encourage people to be more active in confronting dishonest media reports. I will of course remind everyone of the role of Ayn Rand cultist Judge Drain while I’m at it.” Mike Hummell

Joining Hummell on the panel will be John Jordan, Business Manager for Bakers Union #334 along with Joe Piccone, Business Agent for Teamsters Local #340, the union representing the delivery drivers at Hostess. Having the Local representatives from both the Bakers and the Teamsters should give a good look at the events on the ground as they unfolded.

Rounding out the panel will be Biddeford City Councilor Richard Rhames, addressing both the impact the closing is having on Biddeford and the various tax breaks provided by the city to Hostess. How much did the people of Biddeford do for Hostess over the years? What exactly did they get to show for it when it was all said and done? Has the city been left hanging on any promises? Hopefully the City Councilor Rhames will be able to answer some of these questions.  Again, if you have questions, please put them in the comments on the Facebook event page.

This will be a discussion of the direct effects on the city of Biddeford. The other speakers will tell the story from their unique local perspectives.
(RSVP To the event via FACBOOK)

You can read about the Biddeford, Mike and the plant in this article. http://www.pressherald.com/…It gives a grim view of the prospects for former employees.

The bakery union representing former Hostess workers has objected to the planned sale of the bread brands to Flowers, saying the bid offers no assurances that former labor contracts would be honored.The Industry International Pension Fund also is objecting to the sale.

In a court filing on Feb. 25, the bakery union and pension fund said, “Flowers has not committed to preserve a single job, and in fact has affirmatively disclaimed any obligation even to ‘consider’ employing a single worker.

“Thus, while debtors’ secured lenders may view Flowers’ bids as the ‘best’ for getting themselves paid, Flowers’ bids provide zero assurances that the rights of the debtors’ workers will be protected,” the filing said.

If you are a Portland, Maine, please join us for a discussion of the real life effects of our hedge fund economy. Or as Fox News would say- “Union thugs gang up and steal Twinkies from babies!”

Catch up with the pension theft here. http://www.dailykos.com/…

You can also see what really happened to Hostess in the video, from Mike Hummell.  It is very different than what the mainstream media may have told.

Today We Remember The Man and The Labor Leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King 2

“History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.” Dr Martin Luther King Jr

In our current time of great struggle we should look back at history to see how far we have come as humans, as Americans, and as labor unions.  This weekend we will celebrate the birth of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, a man who moved a nation.  While most people remember Dr King as the great human and civil right advocate, many also remember the impact he made on the labor movement.  While they may seem very different, they are in fact the same.Dr King realized that both labor unions and civil rights advocates were fighting for the same thing.  Fair and livable wages for all.  So together Dr King and unions like AFSCME came together to help each other.  This was evident in the Sanitization Workers Strike in Memphis in 1968.  The strike took on more than just labor issues, it became a symbol of the civil rights movement.  Dr. King lead over 20,000 people through the streets of Memphis in solidarity of the AFSCME Strikers.


You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth.  AFSCME Memphis Sanitation Strike, April 3, 1968

The next day, April 4th 1968, Dr King was assassinated in on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

On 8 April, an estimated 42,000 people led by Coretta Scott King,  SCLC, and union leaders silently marched through Memphis in honor of King, demanding that Loeb give in to the union’s requests. In front of the City Hall, AFSCME pledged to support the workers until “we have justice” (Honey, 480). Negotiators finally reached a deal on 16 April, allowing the City Council to recognize the union and guaranteeing a better wage. While the deal brought the strike to an end, the union had to threaten another strike several months later to press the city to follow through with its commitment. (1)

The demands of the AFSCME Workers in 1968 were not that different that what we ask for today.  We want a fair and livable wage, security and safety in our jobs, and the right to negotiate with our employers.  Today we remember the Man, the Labor Leader, the Civil Rights Advocate….  Dr. Martin Luther King JR.

Stunned By The Silence of Our Secretary of Labor

Sec. of Labor
Hilda Solis

I am actually ecstatic that President Obama has been elected for a second term but I am perplexed at the silence of his entire cabinet. Especially the Labor Department headed, up by Hilda Solis. When I ask fellow union members who heads up the Department of Labor, I get a blank stare. Nobody knows. Here we are in the fight of our lives to preserve unions and in most of the fights from Wisconsin to Michigan to New Hampshire the Labor Department has been absolutely silent.

Sec. of Labor
Hilda Solis

From the Right to work fights to the anti-labor stance taken by Hostess and the possible layoff of 25,000 letter carriers due to the implementation of five day delivery by the Postal Service you hear nothing from the Labor Department. That is very troubling to workers. The Labor department is supposed to be our advocates. In 2009 after a very hard confirmation I remember being in a meeting with Secretary Solis and she stated “there’s a new sheriff in town, and she’s on the side of Labor”. So where has she been?
They didn’t weigh in on the crippling shipping strike in California nor have they said anything about the 11,000 workers about to be laid off by Citi Group. It’s astonishing that they are so silent on all these potential job losses. What are they there for but to be on the side of workers? There just seems to be a disconnect.

We finally get a Secretary who actually has a history in the Labor movement, not management, and she has a standoff attitude. She should be at the front of the picket line! Maybe I just don’t understand what the Department of Labor is all about. I’m pretty sure their mission statement is “To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights”.

She then should be supporting Wal-Mart workers and issuing strong statements against the company that locked up those garment workers in that factory that 112 were killed in Bangladesh. Aren’t incidences like that that triggered the union movement in this country? Remember the Triangle Waistcoat Factory fire in Washington Square in Manhattan in 1910!

It’s like the entire Obama Cabinet is invisible. You never hear from any of them. What is going on? Have they been given a gag order? Anyway, that’s my rant for the week. Have a happy holiday.

The Retail Theft Of Thanksgiving

Boycott Walmart

First let me start by saying Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of your family. I hope you enjoy the holiday and the time you get to spend together.

I would also like to take a moment to thank the men and women who do not get Thanksgiving or most holidays off.  These dedicated men and women work every hour or every day. Many of these people work in ‘safety-related’ fields.  They are your local Police and Fire departments.  They are there whenever you call.  They are the doctors, nurses, and staff at your local hospitals.  They are there when you twist your ankle playing football after Thanksgiving dinner.

There are many others, like pilots and other airline industry workers. Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel time of the year. Millions of people fly home to be with families, and members of my union – the National Air Traffic Controllers Association – help to make sure you get there safely.

These union members in safety-related jobs are not the only people who have to give up their holidays to fulfill their duties.  For example, the IBEW members at PSNH who are working or on-call. Or the State Employees (SEA/SEIU1984) who are working the toll booths throughout New Hampshire. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

Millions of people have to work on holidays; unfortunately, that number is going up every year.  This year, that number is going up dramatically.  This is largely in part to the stealing of the Thanksgiving holiday by the retail industry.

As long as I can remember, the day after Thanksgiving was always a special day for shoppers.  People would read the newspaper to see all the specials. They would get up at un-godly hours and stand in lines to be the first in line for that ‘doorbuster’ deal.  Over the last few years that has all changed, and I think it is appalling.

This year, all the major retailers are opening earlier than ever to beat out their competitors.  Best Buy and the Simon Malls are opening at midnight on Friday morning.  The new Merrimack Premium Outlets are opening at 10pm on Thanksgiving Day.  Target, Sears, and Toy R Us will be opening at 8pm on Thanksgiving Day.

This is why I am saying that the retail market is stealing Thanksgiving.

The worst of all is Walmart.

Walmart alone employs 1.4 million people in the U.S.  Around the country, most Walmarts will open at 8pm on Thanksgiving.  But other Walmarts will be open all day.

For instance, the Bedford Walmart is going to be open at 7am, just like any other Thursday.  Except Thanksgiving is not a normal day. This is a special day. This is a day to spend with friends and family enjoying good food and fellowship.  This is not a day to be forced into work at a retail store so the corporation can make extra money on ‘Black Thursday’.

Mary Pat Tifft a Walmart associate and organizer for OUR Walmart stated

“This Thanksgiving, while millions of families plan to spend quality time with their loved ones, many Walmart workers have been told we will be stocking shelves and preparing for doors to open at 8pm on Thanksgiving night.

My son is coming home from Afghanistan for the holiday, and I would be devastated if I had been scheduled to work. I see the disappointment in the eyes of my co-workers, especially those with young kids, that aren’t going to be able to share the holiday with their families.”

How many of these people are getting ‘Holiday Pay’ or extra pay for giving up their holiday to work? I would guess very few, if any, will – considering that Walmart does not even give the majority of their employees health benefits.

How many of these minimum wage workers would volunteer to work Thanksgiving, if they weren’t required to work?  What is next, opening at 9am on Christmas Day to start the after-Christmas sales?  If this Thanksgiving Day trend continues, what will stop the largest single employer in the U.S. from stealing Christmas, too?

I will do my part to stop this trend, by not shopping on Thanksgiving Day.  I will also be boycotting Walmart this Friday as well, in honor of the OUR Walmart workers who are planning a walkout strike on Black Friday.

Please pledge to ‘Stand With Walmart Strikers‘ and make this Thanksgiving one that Walmart, and all the other retailers, will never forget.

Information about OUR WALMART

OUR Walmart, the associate-led organization that aims to ensure every Walmart employee is treated with respect, raise employee working standards, and improve customer service at Walmart stores nationwide.

 

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