About 75 people rallied April 29 outside Union Terminal in support of unionized Cincinnati Bell workers, while inside the company held its annual shareholders' meeting. The contract between Bell and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 4400 and 4401 expires at midnight Saturday. The union says Bell is demanding massive give-backs from workers while the company's top executives are raking in massive salaries and bonuses.
"The company is coming out of a very difficult period," said Dodie Ditmer, assistant to the vice president of CWA District 4. "Management decisions led to serious financial consequences."
Although CWA members didn't drive Bell into debt, their hard work helped Bell reduce it by $149 million last year, according to Ditmer.
"So how does Cincinnati Bell management show its gratitude?" she asked. "They give top management a 17 percent raise and come to the bargaining table with us asking for massive givebacks."
During the rally, a giant inflatable rat sat at the entrance to Union Terminal's driveway. Union supporters named him Fat Rat Jack after Bell CEO Jack Cassidy, whose $846,602 bonus last year really irks workers who are being asked to give up benefits.
"Give us the respect to realize we are not that naíve," said union mobilizer Jeff Durstock.
Protesters' signs agreed, saying, "We're being railroaded" and "We Don't Get Paid (Like) Jack."
Last year Cassidy made more than $3 million, including stock option grants, according to the union's "PayWatch Fact Sheet." That's $24 per minute, compared to a minimum-wage worker's 9 cents per minute.
Sister Monica, from the Cincinnati Interfaith Committee for Workers' Justice, said executives aren't making good on all their talk about family values.
"It's just another symptom of what's wrong with how we treat working people," she said. "Values are not something you talk about. Values are something you practice."
In anticipation of the annual shareholders' meeting, Mike Vanderwoude, vice president of Cincinnati Bell's investor relations and corporate communications, sent out a friendly e-mail reminding all employees that, per company policy, they must refer all media questions to his department.
"It is important to note that violation of this policy may serve as cause for termination," Vanderwoude said.
CWA supporters plan another rally at noon Friday outside the Atrium building on Sixth Street downtown. For updates on contract negotiations, visit www.cwa4400.org or call the bargaining hotline at 513-333-5853.
Is Iraq Ready for the Cincinnati Treatment?
The 377th Military Police Co. of the Army Reserves is preparing to ship out to Iraq. Stationed in Roselawn, the unit turned in a scandalous performance during its deployment to the other ongoing U.S. war, in Afghanistan. Investigators reported widespread mistreatment of Afghan prisoners during the local company's 2002 deployment, including the deaths of two in custody.
Pfc. Willie V. Brand is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at Fort Bliss, Texas, on charges of assault, maiming, maltreatment and false swearing. He had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, but a hearing officer — Col. Stephen Pence, a U.S. Army Reservist who is also the lieutenant governor of Kentucky — recommended dropping that charge, and a general agreed. Two other members of the Cincinnati-based military police were also charged. Sgt. James Boland was charged with assault, maltreatment and dereliction of duty. Spc. Brian Cammack faces a special court-martial on charges of assault, maltreatment and making a false official statement.
The charges involve the deaths of two Afghans who were held at the Bagram Control Point north of Kabul. An autopsy showed that one had been beaten so badly that his leg would have had to be amputated if he'd survived.
The investigation is continuing, according to spokesmen for the Army.
Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138)