Hundreds of chanting FairPoint Communications workers rallied in Portland’s Monument Square on Saturday afternoon as their strike entered its 23rd day.

Dressed in red and black, the 400 or so workers and their union representatives vowed to continue to fight for a fair contract.

“We are not just striking for good jobs at FairPoint but good jobs in the Northeast,” said Peter McLaughlin, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327 in Augusta and one of the union’s chief negotiators.

Some of the attendees traveled from as far away as New Jersey and New York to support union members from the IBEW and the Communications Workers of America, the unions representing the striking workers.

Speakers included local and national union officials and the Rev. Michael Seavey, Catholic pastor of the Portland peninsula and island parishes, who has joined the picket line at the FairPoint offices on Forest Avenue four times.

“We insist FairPoint Communications return to the table and engage in good-faith bargaining,” Seavey said.


Roberta Randall of Windham, a service representative at FairPoint, said people have been accumulating red and black clothing to wear on the picket lines.

“In the weeks leading up to the strike, we wore red on Thursdays at work and black on Fridays in support of the bargaining team. It is a sign of solidarity,” Randall said.

Striking workers said they remain steadfast in their efforts to reach a fair agreement.

“It is grueling, depressing, frustrating,” said Jodi Savage Wilson of Sanford, a service representative at FairPoint.

About 2,000 FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have been on strike since Oct. 17 after labor contract negotiations broke down. About 800 of the striking workers live in Maine.

The company, which has struggled financially since buying Verizon’s telephone landline business in northern New England in 2008, asked for $700 million in concessions from the unions, mostly by freezing pensions, eliminating health coverage for retirees and asking employees to contribute roughly 20 percent to their health care costs. The unions rejected the company’s proposal, offering to trim $200 million in employee benefits instead. The company rejected the counterproposal.


A representative of FairPoint did not respond to an email and telephone request for comment Saturday.

Previously, FairPoint has said it needs to cut labor costs to remain competitive. According to the company, under the previous union contracts that expired in August, the company paid 100 percent of all health care premiums for its unionized workforce in northern New England and provided unlimited paid sick days (though this is contested by the unions), a defined-benefit pension plan with no employee contributions, and a 401(k) plan with a company match.

Negotiations are scheduled to resume Nov. 18 in Boston.

On Saturday, Cliff Knapp of Hebron, a customer service representative at FairPoint, said he is cautiously optimistic for his fellow strikers about the meeting, arranged by a federal mediator.

“We are family. We are all in this together,” Knapp said.

Last week the company acknowledged delays in fulfilling customer service requests and asked customers for patience.


The company has said that it is hopeful the unions will come back to the table later this month with meaningful counterproposals.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @QuimbyBeth

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