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Fairpoint Workers Authorize Strike

Union members at Fairpoint Communications say they're in favor of striking if contract negotiations with the company cannot be reached by the  August deadline.

"It always comes down to the wire, so we won't know exactly until Saturday, August 2nd." says Peter McLaughlin, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327, which is the union representing about 700 telephone workers at the company.

A strike authorization vote was taken at several meetings across New England last week, but McLaughlin stresses that workers will not necessarily be walking off the job.

One major sticking point is over the outsourcing of union work to independent contractors. McLaughlin says the union wants to keep those jobs, and he says the use of contractors can lead to questions over quality and safety.

"We control the guys now that go into your house," says McLaughlin, "I mean, I think the people here in the state of Maine need to have that security."

The strike authorization vote is a necessary precursor to any work stoppage, but does not require a strike. Representatives of the Communications Workers of America Local 1400 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Locals 2320, 2326, and 2327 have been in negotiations with Fairpoint management since late April.

The company has said that it cannot comment on the contract negotiations while they're still underway, but is hopeful that an agreement can be reached. They say that service to customers would continue in the event of a strike.