CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County circuit judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday limiting pickets in the nearly two-week-old strike by workers of Frontier Communications.
Judge Charlie King said Frontier made a “threshold showing that the Defendants have engaged in unlawful activities relating to the current strike, and that the Plaintiff and the general members of the public at large will suffer irreparable harm if a temporary restraining order is not entered immediately.”
Frontier workers, members of the Communication Workers of America, began their strike on March 4. The CWA calls the legal action a “typical overreaction.”
“They try to go to court to limit our members’ ability to picket successfully,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President of District 213 of the Communication Workers of America.”By making accusations to the court we’re doing something improper. It’s not unusual.”
Mooney told MetroNews Friday there’s been no illegal activity.
“The only action that’s been taken is by one of their scabs,” Mooney said. “They pulled a gun on our picketers in Flatwoods two weeks ago. The individual was arrested by the State Police.”
Judge King’s order places a number of limitations on picketers including “no more than six picketers at least 15 feet from any entrance to Frontier’s property or premises or at any worksite of any Frontier employee for contractor performing Frontier work, in any manner, including picket change time.”
In regard to the injunction, Frontier released a statement Friday:
“Frontier’s number one priority is the safety and security of our customers in West Virginia, and the employees and contractors who are serving them during the current strike by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Frontier petitioned the court for injunctive relief because of dangerous, destructive and reckless behavior that some members of the CWA have engaged in since the inception of the work stoppage. We strongly disagree that Frontier’s response is an “overreaction.” Our customers, employees and contractors have a right to work and co-exist in a safe and secure environment. Currently, a temporary restraining order is in effect for Kanawha County through 5:00 p.m. Monday, March 19.”
Nearly 1,400 Frontier employees in West Virginia and Virginia after the company and union were unable to agree on a contract. Negotiations started last May.
The CWA is seeking 100 percent job security within the contract — a sticking point within negotiations. Frontier wants to extend the current contract, keeping 85 percent of job security in place. Union employees say that’s not enough.
“Our objective in these negotiations has been, and continues to be, to preserve good jobs with competitive wages and excellent benefits while addressing the needs of our ever-changing business,” Frontier said in the statement. “At this particular juncture, Frontier is electing not to comment further on the details associated with negotiations.”
Frontier asked the judge for an injunction in a hearing that was held Thursday. King said Friday, “Defendants will certainly have the opportunity to argue against entry of a preliminary injunction at the hearing on March 21, 2018 and the Court may, if appropriate, lift this Order at this time,” King wrote.
The order entered Friday will expire in 10 days if not converted to a preliminary injunction.