More than 1,400 Frontier Communications workers in West Virginia and 30 technicians in Ashburn, Virginia went on strike this morning at 12:01 am.
“We have been very clear throughout the bargaining process that our top priority is keeping good jobs in our communities,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President of Communications Workers of America District 2-13. “Going on strike is never easy. It’s a hardship for our members and the customers who we are proud to serve. But the job cuts at Frontier have gone too far — we know it and Frontier’s customers know it. It’s time for Frontier to start investing in maintaining and rebuilding its network in West Virginia.”
An analysis of informal complaints filed with the West Virginia Public Service Commission shows that complaints have increased steadily over the past three years, rising 69% from 639 complaints in 2014 to 1,072 complaints in 2017.
Since Frontier acquired Verizon’s landlines in West Virginia in 2010, the company has cut over 500 middle-class jobs in the state.
“We’re taking a stand,” said Johnny Bailey, President of CWA Local 2276 in Bluefield, WV. “Customers are waiting way too long to have their problems resolved, and too often we’re back fixing the same problems over and over again. Frontier is leaving West Virginia behind. The network has been neglected and there are just not enough experienced, well-trained workers left to handle the service requests.”
Members of the Communications Workers of America have been negotiating with Frontier since last May.
The contract was originally set to expire on August 5, 2017, was extended until November 4, and then extended again until March 3.
“It’s about keeping the jobs here in West Virginia and getting the company to reinvest in the network, to build it out,” Mooney told WRNR’s Eastern Panhandle Talk with Rob and Dave last week. “Frontier acquired California, Florida and Texas more recently from Verizon. It appears to us that they are allocating their capital to the newly acquired properties, not to the state of West Virginia. For us it’s about fighting for those jobs and a quality network that’s available to the customers.”
WRNR host Rob Mario said that “since Frontier acquired the business from Verizon, I haven’t met ten people who are happy with their Frontier service right now.”
“Is this because of job eliminations, or is there something else going on?” Mario asked.
Mooney said it was a number of factors.
“Job elimination,” Mooney said. “Not investing in the network. This network sits out there in the elements, 365 days of the year. It is subject to deterioration due to the elements. It requires constant upkeep and constant analyzing of the network to see where things are deteriorating, where things need to be replaced.”
“As employees of Frontier, we want to apologize for any inconvenience the customers have been going through. We want to provide them with the highest quality network so they have what’s available at their fingertips to compete in today’s economy.”
“We are not deploying the network to all of the educational institutions and the communities. Many classes now require work to be done on the internet. Many of us don’t have encyclopedias in our homes any more. Probably none of us do as we did when I was a child. Where does the student go to look for that information? On the Internet. If they are home and they have some kind of work to do and they can’t access it, or it takes so long that the child or the family is losing interest in doing it, the education system suffers as well.”
“We are hoping that we can get Frontier to come to their senses and invest in the network,” Mooney said.
“We care about this state. Our members care. I’m a technician myself. Nothing gives me more pleasure than showing up at a customer’s residence or business and either installing a quality product or service they need or repairing the service or product they already had in a timely fashion to make sure they were back in business or back to their security.”
“When I travel the state, I ask our workers – how many of your feel embarrassed when you show up to a customer’s home or their business over the quality of the products and services that we are providing as a company?” Mooney said. “Many of them are. We need to correct that. We need to hold these corporations accountable when they come in here and make commitments to something as critical as this. This is a network that sustains many of our 911 systems. It sustains many of our hospitals, our financial institutions. All of them run over this network.”
Mooney said that Frontier was moving ahead of the strike to hire replacement workers – also known as “scabs.”
He quoted the 19th century robber baron Jay Gould as saying – “What business wants is to hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”