Dave O’Brion is a veteran telecommunications worker, not a TV personality.

Until now.

“This is nothing but corporate greed. These companies make all these promises and then they don’t fulfill them,” laments O’Brion, 53, in a 30-second advertisement recorded last month at his home in Falmouth. “You want to enjoy your golden years – and now you can’t. There will be no golden years.”

Welcome to the nine-week-old strike by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America against FairPoint Communications, now playing not only on the picket lines, but perhaps more significantly on television sets throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

“We’re trying to inform as many people to let them know we’re on the street and these are the reasons why,” said Peter McLaughlin, business manager for IBEW Local 2327, in an interview Thursday.

To be sure, there’s nothing new about one side or the other in a labor-management dispute trying to win the hearts and minds of the public. But this time, the striking FairPoint unions have unsheathed a weapon heretofore not seen in a protracted labor action: Four television ads in which FairPoint workers, all out of work since Oct. 17, speak for themselves about why this is a battle worth waging.

Kristen Wescott of Portland worries about how, after FairPoint cut off her health benefits on Oct. 31, her 11-year-old daughter will receive much-needed surgery for a life-threatening heart defect.

“I was upset and angry,” says Wescott, who’s worked for FairPoint and its predecessors for 18 years. “I don’t think it was something FairPoint needed to do.”

Marc Jutras of Manchester, N.H., a 15-year veteran, lost his wife in 2013. He’s the single father of three and worries in his ad about when and where he’ll collect his next paycheck.

“I believe this is an attack on us, on the middle class,” Jutras says. “We’ve made concessions. We’ve worked our overtime to get this company to be what it is today.”

Heather Allard of South Burlington, Vermont, with 20 years of service, recalls FairPoint’s promises, upon its arrival in 2009, that it would keep local jobs and actually add new ones.

“And instead, they have cut hundreds of jobs,” Allard says. “And now they want to pay their investors at the expense of their hardworking employees.”

Then there’s O’Brion, whose paychecks over the past 33 years have borne the names of AT&T, New England Telephone, NYNEX, Bell Atlantic, Verizon and, at least until recently, FairPoint. His focus: From FairPoint’s unilateral freezing of its workers’ pensions to its elimination of retiree health benefits, the retirement he’s worked his whole adult life to secure is fast disappearing before his eyes.

An even bigger concern, said O’Brion in an interview, is FairPoint’s continuing effort to improve its bottom line by outsourcing work to independent contractors – including those whose fill-in performance since the strike began has been abysmal.

“That’s why you need a skilled workforce – to do what basically are high-tech jobs,” said O’Brion.

To wit: Over the past month, the Maine Public Advocate’s Office has logged 33 complaints against FairPoint from residential and business customers unable to obtain or maintain telephone and/or Internet service. Normally, according to consumer adviser Kiera Finucane, the number of complaints is around one or two per month.

What’s more, noted Public Advocate Timothy Schneider, “the nature of the calls has changed a fair amount. The calls we used to get around FairPoint were maybe a small billing dispute or ‘I can’t get DSL (digital subscriber line)’ kinds of calls. Now we’re getting, ‘I haven’t had phone service for two weeks,’ or ‘My business can’t run because I don’t have Internet.’ ”

Which brings us back to those TV ads, whose aim appears to be twofold.

First, they push back against the widely held perception that unions are the problem, not the solution, when it comes to cultivating a healthy Maine economy. The more one gets to see and hear the actual faces and voices on those picket lines, the harder it becomes to caricature them as overpaid ingrates who should consider themselves lucky to at least have jobs.

Consider the stalemate over concessions: According to IBEW’s McLaughlin, FairPoint wants $702 million carved out of its labor costs, while the unions have proposed giveaways totaling $208 million. Divide the company’s demand by the 1,900 affected workers, McLaughlin noted, and you get an average of $350,000 in concessions from each union employee.

“We aren’t out asking for more money. We’re not asking for better benefits. We just want something fair,” said McLaughlin.

The ads’ second apparent objective is to tap into the same vein of public support that helped employees of the Market Basket supermarket chain stare down their new corporate bosses last summer and reinstate Arthur T. Demoulas as their beloved owner and CEO.

Granted, there was no union at Market Basket. That struggle, which essentially shut the company down for more than two months, was waged by front-line workers and managers alike.

Moreover, the Market Basket battle centered on a single person, not a corporation like FairPoint, with its majority ownership currently spread across five Wall Street hedge funds.

Still, without all those customers who voted with their wallets last summer, the Market Basket miracle would never have happened. And with FairPoint controlling what is essentially the backbone of Maine’s telecommunications infrastructure, public sentiment could go a long way in determining who blinks first in this standoff as well.

In an email late Thursday, FairPoint spokeswoman Angelynne Beaudry said the company “is not going to embarrass these four individuals by telling you exactly what each would receive … if they came back (to work) today.”

But on average, she continued, the four people in the ads would receive base pay of $74,000, 165 hours of vacation time, a dollar-for-dollar 401(k) match “up to 5-percent of eligible pay,” health insurance “where the company pays 79-percent of the premium, on average” and various other benefits.

“We think that’s a fair deal,” wrote Beaudry.

Translation: Those four workers, who average more than two decades on the job, should quit their complaining. They should put down their picket signs and accept that upward mobility – once the American Dream – is now reserved for the hedge-fund investors, not the increasingly miserable masses.

Dave O’Brion’s counter-message for all those TV viewers out there?

“That this is a just cause,” he replied. “What some people don’t understand is that we’re fighting for their children. If we allow this to go through, there aren’t going to be any more career jobs. Period.”

Stay tuned, Maine’s middle class. This fight is far from over.

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