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New York State Comptroller Intervenes
in FairPoint Labor Dispute

 

September 16, 2014


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FairPoint workers wear solidarity T-shirts every Thursday and conduct frequent informational pickets to support their negotiators.

Maybe after executives at FairPoint, the telecommunications company delivering landline services in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, imposed a concessionary contract on 2,000 IBEW and CWA members on August 28, they thought the unions would cave. Wrong.

 

The unions had prepared for negotiations for months and made meaningful contract proposals before the company walked out of negotiations. They were not about to surrender, even after their members’ defined benefit pension fund was frozen and the company threatened to subcontract more work.

So IBEW and CWA filed charges at the National Labor Relations Board. Then they went looking for new allies, supporters who appreciate that real progress only comes when unions and employers come together and respect each other’s needs.

On Sept. 3, the unions’ outreach effort started to pay off when Thomas DiNapoli, comptroller of the State of New York, wrote to John Angelo, CEO of Angelo, Gordon & Co.--owner of almost 20 percent of FairPoint stock--to express his concern about reports that FairPoint has violated federal law in bargaining with the IBEW and CWA in New England.

Supporting DiNapoli’s action, members of Augusta, Maine, Local 2327 and CWA Local 1400 rallied in Bangor on Sept. 11 in a “Main Street v. Wall Street Greed” protest, carrying the message: “Stop putting profits above working families.”

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FairPoint workers rallied on Labor Day in Portland, Maine.

DiNapoli is the sole trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. CRF is the nation’s third largest public pension fund, which invests the assets of more than 1 million members, retirees, and beneficiaries of the retirement system in New York State.

The CRF is an investor in the AG Super Fund, a hedge fund managed by Angelo, Gordon & Co.

In addition to owning almost 20 percent of FairPoint stock, Angelo, Gordon has a designee on FairPoint’s board of directors.

According to DiNapoli’s letter, “In our experience as a long-term institutional investor, where a company has a constructive relationship with its workers and provides sustainable retirement benefits, the company becomes a stronger, more profitable and enduring enterprise.”

He went on to say, “We are therefore concerned by publicly reported allegations that FairPoint has not acted in good faith and has violated federal law: specifically, assertions that FairPoint improperly declared an impasse in collective bargaining and unlawfully imposed” the terms of its final contract proposals.

Union leaders welcomed Mr. DiNapoli’s intervention.

“Angelo, Gordon is the largest FairPoint stockholder and has shown tremendous influence over management’s decisions. We hope that Mr Angelo takes seriously this intervention by Mr. DiNapoli, who represents one of the largest pension funds in the U.S.,” said Peter McLaughlin, business manager, Augusta, Maine, Local 2327 and chair of the unions’ bargaining committee.

The chairman of FairPoint’s board of directors, Edward Horowitz, recently informed an advisor to union leaders that members of the board have been briefed on the company’s bargaining position and that the board fully endorses that position.

“It is disappointing to hear that members of FairPoint’s board of directors support the company’s attacks on working families across New England,” said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400. “We believe that our members are the reason this company emerged from bankruptcy and has begun to recover after its truly ill-advised purchase of Verizon. We will educate investors like the CRF about the company’s decision to put short-term profits above the long-term interests of its workers, customers and their communities.”

 

 



 

 

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