Verizon’s $2.7 billion sale of local “access lines”– part of its older copper wire network–would sever these members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) from a 12-state regional bargaining unit with a history of militant strikes and contract campaigns.
If the deal is approved by the states involved and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the buyer announced on Jan. 17, Fairpoint Communications, will be under financial pressure to weaken existing Verizon contract language on work rules, pensions, medical benefits, and job security. Some of the highest paid union jobs in northern
LANDLINE SELL OFF
Knowing that they have to broaden the appeal of their “Stop- the- Sale” campaign beyond telephone workers and their families, CWA Local 1400 and IBEW Locals 2320, 2326, and 2327 are stressing the wider social impact of rural “telecom redlining.” They’ve highlighted the fact that access to high-speed broadband connections is already quite limited in the region.
Verizon wants to invest the proceeds from local access line sales like this one in New England in its fast- growing (and largely non- union) wireless business and the costly fiber optic cable network it is building to bring a combined package of video, internet, and phone services to business and residential customers in big cities and affluent suburbs elsewhere in the country. (Only a handful of northern New England communities–all in southern
“Verizon’s landline sell-off is yet another example of a race-to- the-bottom economy,” says Verizon customer service rep and CWA Local 1400 Vice President Mike O’Day, who works in
Fairpoint is only 10% unionized and currently owns less than 300,000 access lines in rural parts of 18 states.
CWA Local 1400 chief steward Darlene Stone, a Verizon customer service rep, points out that there has also been a big increase in service quality complaints by phone customers in
At a Feb. 12 meeting in
To mobilize public opposition to Verizon-Fairpoint deal, O’Day, Stone, and other Verizon workers have met with or collected letters of support from all three northern New England state governors, eight
On Saturday, March 3 in
Working with state and local central labor councils, consumer groups, and workers rights advocates, Stop-the- Sale activists have intervened in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire regulatory proceedings on whether those state’s should approve the deal. They are demanding that public hearings be held throughout each state, so labor and consumers can challenge Fairpoint’s adequacy as a successor employer and telecom service provider.
Union members involved are also operating a campaign website (www.stop-the-sale.org) and linking their regional activities to a national CWA-initiated campaign for telecom policy reform called, “Speed Matters,” which seeks “High Speed Internet For All.”
“We are not going to let Verizon turn the information super highway into a dirt road in
[Steve Early works for CWA District 1 in