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Frontier employees hit picket lines for second day

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Employees of Frontier Communications are fighting to keep their jobs in West Virginia.

“We want a fair contract for everybody and job security for everybody. We’re not asking for much,” said Joe Wolfe, a 20-year employee of Frontier in Logan County.

Nearly 1,400 Frontier workers in West Virginia and Virginia were out on picket lines for a second day Monday. Employees are on strike because they say the Communications Workers of America has not been able to reach a contract agreement with Frontier.

Ed Mooney, vice president of the CWA District 2-13, said the company is full of broken promises.

“They came here, they said they would secure the jobs here, they said they would invest in the network, that they would treat the customers right and we’re here to try and hold them accountable by their actions at the bargaining table,” Mooney said. “We don’t believe they’re trying to secure the jobs.”

Trish Hatfield, a 18-year employee of Frontier, joined her co-workers outside the Frontier building along MacCorkle Avenue in Charleston Monday morning. She told MetroNews she’s fighting for her family, not just for herself.

“I have a husband that has cancer. We need the medical insurance, the pay and I don’t want my job to go to another state or to a foreign country,” Hatfield said.

She, along with several employees, brought their children to the picket line with signs and red shirts. The kids have been out of school since Feb. 22 due to the statewide teacher and school service worker strike.

“I brought them today so they can see the importance of what this is for West Virginia. There’s not a lot of high paying jobs, so we need to make sure that there’s security here,” Hatfield said.

Senator Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) made an appearance at the Charleston picket line. The senator pulled a young boy from the crowd and told the employees they’re fighting for his future and for all West Virginia kids.

“This is what you all are fighting for,” Ojeda said, as the crowd cheered. “You all work to put a smile on this child’s face for Christmas. Any business that comes into this state that doesn’t think that that’s a priority needs to go.”

John Albright, a longtime Frontier employee, said they’re also fighting for the customers who depend on the company’s services.

“A lot of people that’s got Frontier Internet and services know that it needs improved and we want to fight for that too. We want them to spend money here and not get rid of all the employees by shipping the jobs somewhere else,” he said.

Frontier acquired Verizon’s landlines in West Virginia in 2010. Since then, the company has cut over 500 jobs in the state.

The CWA has been negotiating with Frontier since last May. The contract was originally set to expire on Aug. 5, 2017, was extended until Nov. 4, and then extended again until March 3.

In a statement provided to MetroNews, a company spokesman said, “Frontier has offered a very generous package with continued job security for the great majority of the workforce, minimal benefits changes, and solid wage increases without asking for any significant concessions.”

“With respect to job security, 85% of the employees in this bargaining unit are currently and would continue to be protected against any layoff, regardless of the financial condition of the Company.”

Mooney said it’s time for Frontier to reach a fair agreement. If not, they’ll continue to strike.

“We’re ready to stay here one day longer then they think we can. This can be solved in a couple of hours if this company comes back to the bargaining table and commits to these employees, these members and these residents of the state of West Virginia,” he said.

But Frontier said it has offered fair wages. The company said the offer provided to the CWA included wage increases of more than $14 million, health care benefits of more than $21,000 per employee per year, a continuation of a profit sharing bonus for every CWA employee and the withdraw of pending layoff notices.

“Frontier has presented an unquestionably fair settlement proposal; it is our opinion CWA has simply drawn a line in the sand over getting 100% job security protection,” the company said.

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