BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 28 – Flanked by striking workers and their union leaders, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today called on FairPoint Communications to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a contract in good faith.
“FairPoint is putting the interests of the multi-billion-dollar hedge funds, which own the company, ahead of its workers and customers. That is not acceptable,” said Sanders. “My message to FairPoint is not complicated: Go back to the bargaining table. Negotiate in good faith. Agree to a contract that is fair to the workers, the customers and the company as soon as possible.”
Some 1,700 workers throughout northern New England, including 450 in Vermont, went on strike on Oct. 17 after the North Carolina-based company cut health benefits and froze workers’ pensions.
To date, FairPoint has offered only a plan to slash labor costs by more than $700 million. The company wants to freeze pensions, eliminate future retiree health benefits, force workers to pay hundreds of dollars more a month for health care and let management outsource some jobs overseas.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America offered their own plan that would save the company $200 million, but FairPoint refused to consider the offer. “That is not what negotiations are all about. FairPoint’s management must understand that it can’t have it all,” Sanders said.
Mike Spillane, an IBEW business manager in Vermont, said FairPoint is attempting to “destroy middle-class jobs.” Mike O’Day, a CWA vice president in Vermont said, “They want to outsource all of this work and let Wall Street make all of the money.”
Don Trementozzi is the CWA president in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts. “This is about Main Street, not Wall Street. They want to destroy this company and middle-class jobs,” he said. “This is about keeping good jobs here in New England,” added Keri Evinson, the CWA executive vice president for New England.