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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

 

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.

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.

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.

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

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.”

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