On October 17, 2014, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2326 and Communications Workers of American Local 1400 in Vermont went on strike joining other FairPoint employees in New Hampshire and Maine to protest the company’s refusal to negotiate in good faith. Now almost six weeks into their strike, almost 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications are still holding the picketline as temperatures drop to below freezing.
The call for a strike was eventually made as FairPoint, a North Carolina-based company largely owned by Wall Street hedge funds, sought to dramatically increase health care costs, freeze pensions and put an end to health plans for retirees. After union negotiators offered significant concessions in the spirit of bargaining in good faith, the employer refused to reciprocate. Now, as a result, many on the picket line believe that they are in for a long fight to reassert their rights to collectively bargain and prevent the race-to-the-bottom following other corporations in the industry around the country.
In spite of the challenges facing employees, morale is still high amongst the strikers. As one striking workers said, “We know we’re in for a long fight, but we’re ready. This is more than just about money; this is about dignity and keeping good jobs in Vermont.” Efforts by the union to alleviate the financial hardships of the strike are also keeping spirits up. A relief fund has been created to assist struggling strikers with basic expenses and groceries.
On Thursday, November 20, the strikers and community supporters traveled to Montpelier to rally at the Statehouse where turn-out exceeded expectations and speakers announced their resolve to stand together.