FairPoint unions step up protest with rallies in Boston, Montpelier, Vt.

FairPoint Communications union workers' move to hold rallies in both Boston and Montpelier, Vt., shows that they are not willing to back down in their ongoing strike over disagreement about various concessions related to company benefits. 

Edwin D. Hill, IBEW's president, is spearheading a rally in Montpelier, while a delegation of workers and allies are in Boston protesting against FairPoint shareholder Angelo, Gordon & Co., a Wall Street hedge fund that owns more than 20 percent of the telco's stock. Striking workers are being joined by a number of Boston-area union members and activists, all of whom are asking Angelo, Gordon to intervene in the FairPoint strike.

"FairPoint is tearing up the foundations of the American middle class--all just to line the pockets of hedge fund managers and Wall Street raiders," Hill said in a release. "FairPoint workers have made many sacrifices to help save this company through tough times in the past. It's time for FairPoint to end this strike by returning to the negotiating table and giving its employees a fair deal."
 
Hill is leading the rally on the Boston State House Lawn and is being joined by supporters from across the Northeast region.

For over a month, 1,700 union workers in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have been on strike, protesting concessions the company wants the CWA and IBEW to make related to pay, pension and health care contributions.

The two unions claim that FairPoint has been struggling to maintain its networks with replacement workers it hired from outside of its northern New England territory. Vermont's Department of Public Service reported that it has received 271 complaints from FairPoint customers during the strike.

Although FairPoint and the unions did attend talks in Boston arranged by a federal mediator, the CWA and IBEW said that FairPoint would not back down from its demand to make $700 million in cuts.

In related news, FairPoint has issued a statement warning the public in the northern New England markets it serves to be aware of a tactic they call "mobile picketing." 

This is the practice where union members or union sympathizers follow FairPoint workers from a garage to a job site, including a customer's home. When they get to a job site, striking union members could circle a worker on a job, use bullhorns and whistles, taunting and other tactics that FairPoint says are "intended to intimidate the person trying to serve customers."

At the same time, FairPoint reported that it seeing more incidents of vandalism against its network facilities and vehicles near picket lines. Fiber cables serving network equipment providing broadband and voice service for part of Brentwood, N.H., were cut, while employees have also experienced flat tires after passing through or near picket lines.

For more:
- see this release
- and this release

Related articles:
FairPoint seeks 5-year extension of Vermont regulation oversight relief
FairPoint strikers take their case to Wall Street
Wireline Nightmares: FairPoint can't come to a resolution with CWA, IBEW unions
FairPoint says vandalism on network has spiked during union strike

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