NEW YORK — The FairPoint strike in northern New England spilled over onto the streets of New York City today. Dozens of union activists descended on a conference attended by officials of Angelo, Gordon, the Wall Street hedge fund that owns the biggest stake in FairPoint, the troubled telecom company.
“The hypocrisy of Angelo, Gordon is appalling,” said Chris Shelton, Vice President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) for District 1, which includes New England and New York. “They want to make huge profits by investing public employees' pensions, and then they stand by while FairPoint tries to gut workers' pensions and end retiree health care. This is a betrayal of their investors and the public and we will expose it at every opportunity."
The union activists rallied in front of the Union League Club at 37th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan as the 2014 CIO Leaders in Alternative Investing Summit got under way on Wednesday morning.
Angelo, Gordon owns nearly 20 percent of FairPoint’s shares and has a nominee on the company’s board of directors. The Wall Street hedge fund also manages a portion of the New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF), the nation’s third largest public pension fund.
In September, New York State Comptroller and CRF Trustee Thomas P. DiNapoli sent a letter to Angelo, Gordon expressing his concerns about the hedge fund's behavior. DiNapoli urged the firm to “take all actions appropriate to your role as a substantial shareholder in FairPoint to assure the CRF and other Angelo, Gordon investors that FairPoint is treating its workers fairly and in compliance with the law.”
Angelo, Gordon and other prominent Wall Street hedge funds — which collectively own nearly 50 percent of FairPoint stock — secured their substantial shares in the company after it went bankrupt in 2009. Money managers from several of the other hedge funds invested in FairPoint also attended Wednesday's day-long meeting.
“FairPoint and its Wall Street investors want to turn good middle-class jobs into low-wage jobs with meager benefits," said Peter McLaughlin, Chairman of System Council T9 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents nearly 1,700 striking FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. "Angelo, Gordon and other hedge funds invested heavily in FairPoint as it came out of bankruptcy. Their model is buy low, sell high, and they don't care about the consequences for New England's working families or customers."
FairPoint workers believe Angelo, Gordon has the power to help bring a resolution to this dispute, but so far, it has refused to publicly intervene. The workers and their allies are calling on the firm to reconsider its position and stop FairPoint’s attack on the working families of northern New England.
"We are here today to send a message to FairPoint's Wall Street investors," said Dennis Trainor, Assistant to the Vice President of District 1 of the CWA. "We will continue to support our sisters and brothers in northern New England as long as this struggle for good jobs and quality service continues. Their fight is our fight against these wolves of Wall Street."
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.