On Aug. 12, hundreds of IBEW and CWA members staffed informational picket lines in New England, handing out leaflets to inform their communities how replacing union workers with out-of-state and foreign subcontractors would hurt telephone services and the financial health of local economies.
“We had overwhelming support from the public,” says Pete McLaughlin, IBEW bargaining committee chairman.
IBEW and CWA members in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have been working without a contract since the Aug. 2 expiration of their prior agreement, but most terms of the prior agreement remain in effect.
The impressive turnout for the pickets is the product of a well-organized grassroots effort by several local unions, says McLaughlin.
Hundreds of IBEW and CWA members at FairPoint set up informational pickets to oppose subcontracting on Aug. 12.
Months ago, IBEW and CWA set a goal of training 10 percent of the 1,700 IBEW and 300 CWA members as volunteer mobilizers. As soon as locals found out on Aug. 8 that bargaining was resuming, target locations for picketing were selected in consultation with picket captains.
Then target sites were posted on the Fairness@Fairpoint web page.
In Maine, the state’s AFL-CIO sent out an e-blast to recruit support from other unions.
As hundreds of workers lined up at nearly a dozen locations, local media was there to meet them.
Four separate TV crews showed up in Portland, Maine, to cover the picketing and several newspapers reported on activities throughout New England.
Contract talks are continuing. Union bargainers say they are seeking a reasonable agreement. But they have expressed concerns that FairPoint is seeking to slash contract protections and wages and benefits to make the company, whose majority shares are owned by hedge funds, attractive to a buyer.
McLaughlin told the Portland Press Herald, “We could strike at any time, or the company could lock us out. The situation is fluid.”