Nearly 2,000 members of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Communications Workers of America (CWA) struck FairPoint Communications in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont on Oct. 17 over what the unions say is the company’s unwillingness to bargain in good faith.
Negotiations for a new contract began in April, but the company walked away from the table in August and imposed a contract. That contract, say the unions, increases health care costs and institutes a two-tier wage system that would pay new hires little more than the minimum wage. The company also froze workers’ pensions and plans to outsource skilled jobs from New England to low-paid, out-of-state contractors.
Peter McLaughlin, IBEW Local 2327 business manager, says:
We did not want to take this step. We’ve offered significant concessions to this company that would save them hundreds of millions of dollars. But they absolutely refuse to compromise on any significant issue.
IBEW member Kelly Torosian, who was on a picket line at a Manchester, N.H., FairPoint facility Monday, told New Hampshire Public Radio:
All we want is a fair contract and a fair deal. We’re willing to give concessions, but what they’re asking of us is impossible.
The IBEW and the CWA have filed unfair labor charges against FairPoint with the National Labor Relations Board.
The workers build, maintain and repair the systems that bring telecommunications to homes, schools, hospitals, businesses and factories and staff call centers.
FairPoint bought the northern New England landline business from Verizon in 2008. Since then, according to the website FairnessAtFairPoint.com:
FairPoint Communications executives have led the company into a merger and bankruptcy, resulting in workforce cuts of almost 22 percent. In addition to cutting workers, FairPoint has outsourced jobs in violation of promises made to the New England communities that depend on those jobs.
IBEW President Edwin Hill says:
FairPoint’s outrageous demands would decimate middle-class jobs in New England while threatening good service for telecommunications customers. It’s time for the company to act as a good corporate citizen and work toward a reasonable settlement so our members can get back to servicing their communities.
For more information, go to FairnessAtFairPoint.com and visit Fairness at FairPoint on Facebook; and for more pictures of dogs on the picket lines, visit Dogs for Fairness at FairPoint on Facebook. Check out singer, songwriter and activist Tom Morello's tweet of solidarity below.