The Electrical Worker online
June 2012

Organizing Wire
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Maine FairPoint Workers Get Organized

More than 60 telecommunications workers in Maine are enjoying competitive wages and benefits, along with a voice on the job, thanks to the IBEW.

FairPoint Communications Inc. employees throughout the state overwhelmingly approved their first contract with the company April 5, after a three-and-half-year campaign to join Augusta Local 2327.

"It was a long haul, but in today's anti-union climate, a victory like this is worth celebrating," says Business Manager Peter McLaughlin.

The workers first contacted the IBEW after Verizon successfully sold off its northern New England landlines in 2008 to the North Carolina-based telecommunications company. The former Verizon workers maintained their IBEW contract, which helped sell their nonunion co-workers — employed at existing FairPoint facilities in Maine previous to the sale — on the benefits of collective bargaining.

"They saw what the Verizon workers had, and wanted the same," McLaughlin says. "It was a wake-up call for them on what collective bargaining could do for their workplace."

Employees' top concern was lack of any kind of wage schedule or seniority system. "You had guys who had been there a couple years doing the exact same job as guys with 20 years on the job making more money," he says. "It didn't make sense."

The organizing effort started in the spring of 2008. Organizers quickly signed up the majority of workers, winning an election a couple months later, but the company succeeded in dragging out bargaining on a first contract for as long as it could.

"In our ratification meetings I had to commend them on keeping it together for as long as they did, considering the numerous obstacles and red tape they faced," says McLaughlin.