Currently showing posts tagged Unions

  • FairPoint strikers win victory in Business Court with overturned decision

    by Ramona du Houx

    On Friday, August 26, 2016, FairPoint strikers won a victory In Business Court when a previous decision was overturned.

    “When we fight, we win. Employees should be entitled to benefits in situations like this where companies are demanding substantial concessions and use scabs to attempt to achieve their goals,” said Don Trementozzi, business manager for CWA, Local 1400, which represents most of FairPoint’s call center workers.

    Maine’s Business Court handed a major victory to former strikers at FairPoint when it reversed a decision of the Unemployment Insurance Commission that denied unemployment benefits to the employees.

    The Court’s decision rejected the Commission’s mandate that in order to obtain benefits, the employees had to prove that FairPoint had maintained substantially normal operations during the lengthy 4-month labor dispute in 2014-15.

    “The Business Court’s decision is a major victory for our members just in time for Labor Day. The decision validates what we have been saying all along—that if FairPoint wants to operate with scabs, it should pay the price and have to pay unemployment benefits,” said Pete McLaughlin, the business manager for IBEW, Local 2327, which represents most of the FairPoint utility workers.

    According to the Business Court’s decision, the Commission erred when it placed the burden of proof on employees, rather than FairPoint, to show that there had not been a stoppage of work. The Business Court’s decision was the first time that the Maine courts have addressed who has the burden of proof in labor disputes.

    Second, the Business Court rejected the Commission’s determination that when Maine amended the unemployment statute in 1985, the Legislature had changed the standard for receipt of unemployment benefits during a strike. Prior to, and even after 1985, Maine courts, like most state courts around the nation, and the Commission, had held that workers were disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits only if the strike caused a substantial curtailment of the employer’s operations.

    However, in its October 2015 decision, the Commission changed course and rejected the substantial curtailment standard; instead, the Commission held that the workers were ineligible for benefits because FairPoint had not maintained substantially normal operations during the strike, a more difficult standard to meet than the substantial curtailment standard.

    The Business Court found that the Legislature had not intended to make any change in the substantial curtailment standard.

    Finally, the Business Court held that the Commission needed to make a week by week determination of eligibility for benefits, raising the possibility that the FairPoint strikers might be entitled to benefits for some if not all weeks during the strike.

    The Business Court’s decision means that the case will be returned to the Commission to reconsider its decision. 

    “FairPoint must now prove that there was a substantial curtailment of work for each and every week of the strike. Workers do not strike often, and usually only strike as a last resort in the face of extreme employer conduct. The FairPoint strikers will be able at least for the near future to keep the unemployment benefits they received pursuant to a decision of a Department of Labor Hearing Officer, who found (unlike the Commission) that no substantial curtailment had occurred. And, it should be easier in the future for employees involved in a labor dispute to receive unemployment benefits, particularly where, as here, the employer chooses to hire strike replacements,” said Jeffrey Neil Young of the Augusta law firm Johnson, Webbert & Young.

  • FairPoint layoffs more than 10 percent - Unions worries cuts will erode quality service

    FairPoint union workers at the State House in Augusta standing up for workers rights

    by Ramona du Houx

    FairPoint Communications announced May 14, 2015 that it will lay off 219 employees in its northern New England operations, which represents more than 10 percent of its workforce in the region. Members of both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont will be affected.

    The announcement comes on the heals of a nine month strike. Some ask if this action was in retribution because workers rights were justly upheld in the negotiation settlement.

    Union leaders expressed disappointment at the news and said that the cuts will further erode already severely compromised service quality for the region's telecommunications customers.

    "FairPoint has failed to meet service quality benchmarks for years, and cutting its skilled workforce by more than 10 percent will only make matters worse," said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. "We are disgusted by this company's total disregard for its employees and customers."

    FairPoint has consistently sought to avoid being held accountable for service quality failures in the region. The company is supporting bills in the Maine legislature that would eliminate its obligation to provide service to customers who rely solely on a landline, or Provider of Last Resort (POLR) customers. It also supports an amendment that would eliminate the Maine Public Utilities Commission's ability to investigate service quality failures or to enforce standards. An investigation of the company's service quality failures is ongoing in Vermont.

    "This announcement is deeply disappointing and illustrates yet again that FairPoint executives are beholden to the greedy Wall Street hedge funds who own the company, not to our customers," said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400.

    Union leaders assured members that they would meet with the company immediately to ensure that the layoff process is implemented according to the collective bargaining agreements. "We will continue to fight these cuts and support our members and their families through this difficult time," said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire.

    "Our hearts go out to the hard-working men and women who will lose their jobs because of FairPoint's mismanagement and greed," said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont. "Many of these folks have devoted years to a career with the phone company and they are proud of it. They are valued members of our communities who were willing to make incredible sacrifices during our historic strike. They fought not just for their own jobs, but for the quality service that our customers deserve. They don't deserve this."

  • Maine Portland artists announce holiday “FunkFest for FairPoint Strikers”

    WHAT: Benefit Concert for Striking FairPoint Workers, Tickets $10 at the door

    WHEN: Monday, December 22, doors open at 8:30 pm, show starts at 9 pm

    WHERE: Empire, 575 Congress Street, Portland
    A lineup of some of Portland’s most prominent musicians is holding a “FunkFest for FairPoint Strikers” on Monday, December 22, at Empire music hall. The evening will be headlined by the eight-piece band Model Airplane. Adam Waxman and Joe Farrell and special guest Kenya Hall will also perform. 

    The announcement of the benefit concert at Empire marks the latest surge in public support for the FairPoint strikers. Since the strike began on October 17, the workers’ relief fund has received nearly $150,000 in donations.
    “The community support we’ve received has been amazing,” said Peter McLaughlin, chair of the bargaining committee of the nearly 2,000 union workers at FairPoint. “People aren’t just writing us checks, they’re walking our picket lines, they’re coming to our rallies, and now they’re literally singing our song. We can’t thank these musicians enough — and the people all across Maine — who are standing with us to win a Fair Deal for New England.”
    The FairPoint strikers have received substantial gifts of food and other items in addition to the nearly $150,000 given to the strike fund. Highlights of the support effort include hundreds of Thanksgiving turkeys and food baskets distributed to strikers by the nonprofit Food AND Medicine; tens of thousands of dollars in grocery store gift cards given out by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and a drive to collect thousands of Christmas presents for strikers’ children by the Communications Workers of America.
    “This outpouring of support has allowed our strikers to remain incredibly strong,” said Don Trementozzi, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1400. “And thanks to the generosity of the artists behind this concert and so many others, we can tell FairPoint executives that we’ll fight one day longer, one day stronger.”
    The FairPoint workers began negotiations for a new contract in April. From the outset, the company pressed for $700 million in deep and damaging cuts. The workers made compromise offers with more than $200 million in cost savings, but the company 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.