IBEW Local 827 testifies before New Jersey Senate Budget Committee on telecom industry recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy; Union calls for cooperation to secure more government funding

Dec 05, 2012, 11:00 ET from IBEW Local 827

EAST WINDSOR, N.J., Dec. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The union representing workers in the telecommunications industry today testified on Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts before the New Jersey State Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in Trenton, New Jersey.

Bill Huber, the President and Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 827, called on the State Legislature to pressure Verizon to rebuild the telecommunications grid devastated by Hurricane Sandy in a way that was more technologically advanced and better able to meet the challenges of future catastrophes, a process known as "building smart," by tapping into the billions of dollars of federal recovery funding flowing into the state.

"The devastation caused by this storm was, in the opinion of our Union, greatly aggravated by the historic and continuing actions of power and communications utilities to ignore the importance of 'building smart' and then properly maintaining the power and communications grid in this region," said Huber. "The cumulative result of this business philosophy was revealed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy by the long time periods involved in restoring service due to the lack of adequate manpower resulting from consistent downsizing, causing the need to import service techs from other states."

Huber was also critical of Verizon's efforts to move away from being the company that provides a reliable telephone dial tone service in favor of a wireless services provider. He called on the Legislature to live up to its traditional obligations to consumers, especially senior citizens and rural customers.

"We believe that Verizon needs to be forced to live up to its obligation as the last provider of dial tone service, to spend what is necessary to provide alternatives for senior citizens who do not want to migrate to Fiber or provide a reliable back-up power source that will keep dial tone working in power failures," said Huber. "Verizon has technology available that would allow them to take care of seniors and rural customers ... They haven't built out this valuable technological backup system simply because they don't want to absorb the cost and also because they don't have enough trained outside techs to do the work in a timely fashion."

Huber went on to state that, in spite of past conflicts with the company over contractual matters, IBEW Local 827 was still willing to work with Verizon and the State Legislature to secure a fair share of federal recovery funding.

"Our IBEW Local 827 members are ready, willing and more than able to work cooperatively with Verizon and the Legislature to both lobby for our fair share of federal and state disaster relief for the telecommunications infrastructure and to rebuild and reconnect a telecommunications infrastructure that will be the envy of the rest of the Nation," Huber testified.

IBEW Local 827 represents 5,500 union members working in the telecommunications field who form the bulk of the outside technical workforce for Verizon in New Jersey. Some IBEW Local 827 members also work for divisions of Comcast Communications, and a small group works for AT&T & Avaya.