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News :: Labor : Media : Politics : Technology
Unions challenge effort to muzzle Verizon employees from speaking out about sale of northern New England landlines
21 Jun 2007
Verizon managers issued a memo on June 18 warning all employees in New England that, “…employees should not make public statements which speculate about either the operations of northern New England before or after the FairPoint transaction, or the success or future performance of FairPoint.”
IBEW & CWA logos.JPG
Verizon claimed the “quiet period” order was needed because of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules governing the proposed sale of its operations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to FairPoint Communications.

The System Council T-6 of the IBEW that represents over eleven thousand Verizon employees throughout New England was quick to respond. In an email to Verizon, IBEW’s legal counsel wrote:

“None of the union’s members is in a position to either obtain or release any information that would be restricted under these [SEC] rules. It seems, therefore, that the email and the directions contained therein amount to nothing more than an attempt by Verizon to place a gag order on its employees who have been on the forefront in raising concerns about the efficacy of the proposed transaction – both as Verizon employees and as Verizon customers. The restrictions… plainly run afoul of our members’ First Amendment rights to free speech and free association as well as their rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act... This is particularly true of Verizon’s attempt to block our members from speaking in public forums on their own time, which is patently unlawful.

“We therefore demand that Verizon rescind the instructions issued to the bargaining unit yesterday or at least provide complete and accurate information about what information is actually restricted during the quiet period so that our members will understand that they are unaffected by these rules,” the email concluded.

A similar letter was sent to top Verizon labor relations executive John Navarro from the General Counsels of both the IBEW and the CWA on June 19. The joint union letter requested a response and clarification from Verizon no later than June 21.

“Once again Verizon has overreached in its desperation to make the landline sale go through,” said Myles Calvey, IBEW T-6 System Council Chair. “One of the clear benefits of uniting in a union is that it gives workers the right to speak out about what’s right and what’s wrong. Our members have been leading the charge to protect the public from this ill-advised scheme. We certainly aren't going to stop now.”

“We are getting our point across,” said Dave Decelles, a 20-year lineman who works in White River Junction, Vermont and is a member of IBEW Local 2326. “It sounds like Verizon is nervous and just doesn't want the real truth to come out to the general public.”
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