Hawaiian Telecom Workers Take on Corporate Greed
November 18, 2011
Hawaiian Telecom employees staged a two-day walkout Nov. 10, protesting Chief Executive Eric Yeaman’s demands for substantial cutbacks to health and retirement benefits.
The workers – represented by Honolulu Local 1357 – have been working without a contract for more than two months. Negotiations, which began in August, broke down because of management’s refusal to compromise on any of its demands.
Says Ninth District International Representative Harold Dias:
The last six years have been trying times for Hawaiian Telecom employees. The state’s largest telephone company was sold off by Verizon in 2005 to a private equity firm for $1.6 billion. The company went bankrupt, costing the company more than 20 percent of its customer base.
Says Local 1357 Business Manager Scot Long:
Workers agreed to givebacks to keep the company afloat, including a wage freeze and the closing of the pension plan to new hires.
Most jarring, Dias says, was Hawaiian Telecom’s decision – made right before the start of contract negotiations – to boost Yeaman’s annual pay by more than 400 percent, to $6.72 million. Other top officers also saw big pay hikes and bonuses.
A Local 1357 member wrote in a letter to the Hawaii Reporter:
Employees reached their breaking point, saying they had given up enough already, Dias said.
At the same time workers were picketing, Honolulu was hosting President Obama and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which brought together the heads of state from 21 Pacific Rim countries to discuss global trade policies. The conference gave Local 1357 members the opportunity to connect their struggle with the growing Occupy Wall Street movement, which, in addition to targeting Wall Street, is critical of APEC’s pro-corporate policies.
Following the two-day job action, the local continues to pressure the company for a fair settlement, mobilizing members on the job and in the community.
Says Business Manager Long: