CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 150 members of the Communications Workers of America and other unions rallied in front of Frontier Communications offices in Kanawha City on Thursday to support upcoming contract negotiations.
Many CWA workers wore red T-shirts with a variety of slogans, including: "We Won't Go Backwards," "United We Bargain, Divided We Beg" and "The Longer The Picket Line, The Shorter The Strike."
Elaine Harris, CWA's international representative in West Virginia, said, "Contract negotiations are a critical time for employees and these rallies let our members know we are there for them."
Harris also praised retired CWA members at the rally. "You are the trailblazers. You paved the way for us."
Negotiated with Verizon in 2008, the current contract that covers 1,600 West Virginia workers is scheduled to expire Aug. 2. Verizon workers became Frontier employees in 2010, when Frontier bought Verizon's landlines in West Virginia and 13 other states.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, sent a letter to the rally, read by Harris. "You are the working men and women who keep this state and our country running I am confident that a fair contract will ultimately be reached.
"These jobs are important," Manchin concluded. "I wish both the CWA and Frontier the best."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nick J. Rahall, both D-W.Va., also sent statements supporting the union.
Ken Hall, international secretary-treasurer for the Teamsters, asked CWA workers gathered outside Frontier's headquarters: "Are you ready to fight for a fair contract? We are in an era when corporate America is trying to scare everybody.
"Your company had about $5 billion in general revenue last year. Your CEO made $6 million last year and he got a raise in March. If they can give him a raise, they can give a raise to you people right here."
Hall mentioned his role leading six recent months of negotiations to win new contracts with United Parcel Service covering 240,000 workers.