Posted By: Arthur P. Bloom Letter to the Union Hall - 04/10/20 07:09 PM
TO: Don Dunn
CWA Local 1108 President

I wish to acquaint you and your officers with a situation that has been on-going at the Town of Shelter Island for at least the last 18 years.

I am a retired 30-year employee of NYTelCo / AT&T and its subsequent company iterations. I worked as a station, key system, special services, and PBX repairman for 20 years in Manhattan, and for 10 years as a cable maintenance splicer in Southampton. My NCSD was 2-23-1970. I am fully conversant with how the company operates (or is supposed to operate.) I am certified as a telecommunications expert witness. I am a licensed & insured telecom electrician with Suffolk County Consumer Affairs.

Upon retirement in 1999, I formed a telephone installation and repair company, based on Shelter Island. One of my clients is the government of the Town of Shelter Island. My contract with the town requires me to identify and isolate line troubles, and either to repair problems on "our side" of the NID, or to report to Verizon troubles that test to "their side." I am also employed directly as the Fire Marshal of Shelter Island.

Over the years, I have repeatedly asked to be provided with a telephone number where I could make these reports to a knowledgeable repair clerk who would have, at least, a rudimentary understanding of how the phone company works, and who speaks English, in order that my repair requests would receive the appropriate attention, and be expedited due to the nature of the subscriber, i.e. a town government. My client's service includes the lines serving the general offices of the town along with more critical circuits, such as those of the Police, Fire and Highway departments. I offer my client a 4-hour response time for repairs in those departments.

99.9% of the time, the troubles are in Verizon's cables or equipment. There is a Pair-Gain box that serves the center of town where the police and fire departments are located. For years, the batteries were not serviced or replaced according to the BSP's or manufacturer's recommendations for those systems. Every summer, the box would overheat, fans would fail, batteries would eventually run down, and, especially during prolonged commercial power failures due to storms, the batteries would fail within a few minutes of the power failure. No trucks equipped with generators would ever arrive, with the result that critical circuits would fail almost immediately.

On one occasion, I was able to reach one of the company's so-called "engineers" (God knows where or how he received his engineering degree, since he was clueless). I explained that his PG box was situated exactly 6 feet from a government building equipped with an emergency back-up generator. I suggested that the town and the company join forces and the town would provide a weatherproof outlet and cord set to allow the building generator to power the PG equipment. His answer was that "You can't do that because the telephone company uses a special type of electricity." What do you say to a person who is so mentally-challenged? On one occasion during the aftermath of a severe hurricane, the chief of police directed the fire department to remove the padlock on the PG equipment power inlet, so that we could hook up a portable generator to it to get the cops' lines back up.

We have met with foremen, district managers, engineers, crafts people, and Big Shiny White Helmets from HQ. No amount of pleading and begging has ever resulted in solutions to our problems. We did convince one repairman (now retired) to swap a few critical lines off of the PG and back onto copper to an adjacent building on our government campus. That solved the police department problems permanently.

This week, I called 1-800VERIZON to report an important line out of service. The report was made on Monday morning. The commitment time was Thursday, by 8 pm. I then called another toll-free number that I had used before. They transferred my call to no fewer than 4 other toll-free numbers, over the course of a two hour attempt to expedite the repair. Some of the connections (presumably via VoIP or SIP trunks, manned by people with impenetrable accents in far-away lands) were so bad that I needed to hang up and try again, repeatedly. One would think that the phone company, of any company, would strive for clear connections.

On Thursday the repairman, Roy, arrived and made the repair in less than 15 minutes. It was, as usual, a wet short located in a defective, antique F2 cable. Thank-you to Roy. He's one of the good ones.

Some of the reasons that the repair clerk gave me for NOT expediting the repair:
"Our trucks do not go on boats."
"In the summer, we have a reduced work force."
"We will wait until there are at least three reports before we can roll a truck."
"We cannot temporarily forward the calls to another number because our system will not do that."
And of course the old standby excuse: "The trouble must be in your equipment."

Today, Friday, I notified the town officials that I would be meeting with a sales rep from Optimum. There are a total of 46 Centrex and POTS lines involved. I am reluctantly recommending that the Town make the switch to Optimum/LightPath. As a former faithful employee and Union brother, it pains me to do this. But these days, my allegiance is to my client, and by extension, to the citizens of our town, who deserve not to be abused and harmed by the fools in Verizon's management any longer. Verizon "services" our town the way a bull "services" a cow.

Trust me, I could write about 50 other events over the years in which your irresponsible employer absolutely refused to provide even the most basic support to the town, its citizens or to a long list of my other clients. On a positive note, your members are always there for us, and try to do the right thing, against almost insurmountable obstacles. Thank you for listening.

Fraternally Yours,
Arthur P. Bloom

“30 years of faithful service…15 years on HOLD.”
Posted By: hbiss Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/10/20 09:13 PM

Posted By: dude Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/10/20 09:37 PM
do you think this would have happened in an ATT world?

it sounds like the "breakup" is working out well according to the government plan.
Posted By: Professor Shadow Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/10/20 10:26 PM
Posted By: Silversam Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/11/20 10:36 PM
It's sad. Just sad.

Do you think the CWA can do anything about this? (THAT is a rhetorical question. What control have they had in the last 50 years - if ever?)

Do they still have Presidential Complaints? Those used to work. At least some of the time....

Posted By: Arthur P. Bloom Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/12/20 12:32 AM
I sent that letter 3 years ago. I have not had the pleasure of a reply as of this date.
Posted By: justbill Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/12/20 01:02 AM
As much as I sympathize with the reason for the letter I'm not sure what the union, any union, could do. Their job is to protect workers rights not to make sure the company has competent people in authority to make decisions that treat customers as they should be treated. I shook my head many times at the way AT&T operated, I've seen first hand in joint union management meetings where we pleaded with the company to not do what they were planning as it would lose customers and cost jobs. It all fell on deaf ears and of course the members would ask us why we didn't do more, so we caught it from both ends. Just look now at copper plant, how many years did the unions try to persuade the companies to repair and maintain it? Now look at the state of service where the plant has deteriorated to the point of no or at the best very poor service where fiber wasn't run, with no plans to run it now. Anyway, that's my take and I too could give you numerous stories and situations on the issue, but it's too late now, the jobs are gone.
Posted By: jeffmoss26 Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/12/20 03:28 PM
Well written.

In my last two jobs, I provided IT support to ~200 user companies. Of course phone service is essential to any business. I remember staying at work until 11PM one night while AT&T repaired our PRI that went completely down. Lots of old cable in the area.

We had a group of POTS lines dedicated to dialing into burglar alarm panels for programming. We had issues dialing out and entered trouble tickets on two of those lines. Mother Bell sent two technicians, at the same time, to the same building, one for each ticket. Spoiler: only one human can fit in the phone closet at a time!

At my current shop we hae 5 lines going into a Norstar 616. One day, we started having bizarre issues. Lines were ringing randomly, bleeding over onto one another, could not hear customers, etc.
AT&T came out and replaced an underground splice case that was completely rusted through.
My personal favorite, it takes two technicians and two vehicles to make (1) key copy.
Posted By: hitechcomm Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/12/20 11:27 PM
Arthur, what took do long to switch?
Posted By: Arthur P. Bloom Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/12/20 11:33 PM
Jeff, as much as your Uncle Arthur loves and admires you, and please don't take it the wrong way, when I say to you "You do not know the depths of stupidity and disfunction of Ma Bell until you have toiled on her rolling decks for 30 years."

Let's be friends, and I promise not to start telling Mother stories that would make you do multiple facepalms. Here's just one, to entertain you this evening:

It falls into the "foreman is less educated that the the guys he supervises" department.

In the Seinfeld TV shows, they always show the facade of a NYC restaurant, and then cut to the interior. The inside is just a set, but the outside is actually Tom's Restaurant, a typical NYC Greek-owned diner. It's at West 112th Street and Broadway. The western omelets with a side of home-made steak fries were a delight. The repairmen from the West 130th Street garage, of whom I was one, would all drive our vans to that area every morning, and have breakfast. The local businesses complained that the phone company trucks were taking all the parking places, and blocking the bus stops and fire hydrants. Double-parked vans were also causing tsuris. Our foreman issued the following edict: "I don't want youse guys coagulatin' at that restaurant."

I gotta million of 'em.
Posted By: Arthur P. Bloom Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/12/20 11:36 PM
Arthur, what took so long to switch?

We haven't switched yet. The cable company switch doesn't have the correct software version to provide Centrex®-like features, and the town workers would rebel if the dialing procedures changed.
Posted By: Arthur P. Bloom Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/13/20 11:34 PM
To be fair, I will say that the Union president got in touch after I sent the letter, but I have never heard from the Company about the issues. They're basically not interested in a small customer like us, with only 40 or so lines.
Posted By: EV607797 Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/14/20 07:00 AM
In the early 80s, I tried and tried to get hired by C&P Telephone/Bell Atlantic/Verizon. I went to their local employment office in Falls Church, VA and went through all of the formalities, filled out all of the forms, took the tests and received the typical "don't call us, we'll call you" response by a front desk clerk. I did this for years. Each time, I received a form letter within a week thanking me for my interest, but they were unable to provide me with employment at this time. Keep in mind, they were advertising all over the place with available jobs. I was working as an electrician and making good money, so I didn't lose too much sleep over it. Still, I returned every six months (that was their required repeat interval for testing) and did it all over again. Same tests, same result. After my seventh attempt, I demanded to speak with a manager. I knew I was qualified and able, and I had also maxed the test each time. I demanded answers. I called and arranged to meet with the manager.

He knew why I was there and acknowledged that he had seen my package come across his desk many times. He thanked me for being so persistent and for my interest in working for the company. I then asked him why we kept going around in circles with their process for four years. He got up from his desk, closed his office door and gave me a pat on the shoulder. As he sat back down, he said that he would love to hire me. I had maxed the test every single time. I was in perfect health (fresh out of the military) and had no criminal or driving issues. They had dozens of positions available that were a shoe-in for me. He said that it saddened him to sign those form letters going out each time. He knew I was wasting my time and finally told me so.

When I pressed him for a reason, he replied: "I'll never admit that I told you this, so please don't repeat it, but you're not the proper race or gender that the company is seeking to fulfill its current quotas".

On that note, I got up, shook his hand and thanked him for his honesty. I never looked back. We kept in touch and he assured me that he'd keep me abreast of any future opportunities. I started my own interconnect company the following day in 1984 with the mindset "If you can't join 'em, beat 'em". Within two years, their Centrex sales reps were throwing more CPE business at me than I could handle. Something tells me that he might have had something to do with that, although he is long-gone and I'll never know.
Posted By: Arthur P. Bloom Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/14/20 11:35 PM

Somewhere I have stored away a file folder from my N Y Tel days, that I swiped from the file cabinet where our personnel files were stored. It has my name and NCSD, (net credited service date, for you non-Bell heads) and SS# on the tab. Stamped in big letters is the notation "NOT ELIGIBLE FOR PROMOTION, PURSUANT TO EEOC RULES."

Like you, Ed, in a somewhat similar mind set, even though I WAS an employee, I figured "if I can't beat 'em, ph*ck 'em." Over the ensuing years, when our Union contracts got fatter and fatter, the company started messing with the salaries and pensions of the only class of workers that they could: first level management (foremen.) An executive friend of mine said "we consider foremen to be non-unionized craftsmen. They can't complain, 'cause if they did, we would just fire them." History proved him correct, and proved me to have been the "victim" of subsequent contracts and raises.

The last ten years of my career, working as a cable maintenance splicer, I grossed a total of $1,000,000. I routinely made $20,000 more than my boss, annually. When I retired with 30 years' service, counting the incentives, I walked away with a pension equal to that given to a worker with 46 years of service. My foreman got a lump sum when he retired the following year of $350,000. He had to pay tax on that amount, and even with creative accounting he wound up with a yearly income (interest on principal) of about $15,000. My pension plus stock options (again, a Union-created program) comes to a lot more. So much for not being the correct shade or chromosome type. The best thing they ever did to me was reverse discrimination.

The foremen once tried to organize (unionize). They met one evening in a huge hotel ballroom in midtown Manhattan, in NYC. Hundreds of them. In and amongst them were management "special agents" from the company security force. Pictures and videos were taken. The next week, every foreman who could be identified was called in to his boss's office and given a choice: Sign a "confession" and agreement never to attempt to organize, or walk out the door, with no pension. So much for their organizing attempt.

Ed, I hope you're not bitter about being turned down. From my experience in hanging out with you here, I'm sure you would have been a great asset to the company. It was, occasionally, a wonderful place to work. But it sounds like you had a great career in spite of them.
Posted By: Arthur P. Bloom Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/15/20 12:11 AM
On a similar note, when I was working in fashionable East Hampton, on Long island, during the last ten years of service, I went into a small German deli and ordered a toasted bagel with cream cheese. This was in, say, 1992 or 3. When a dollar was worth something. The owner of the deli was a big old jolly German man, complete with "aggsent" frummm der old country. He took my order, and handed me the bagel in a few minutes. I was wearing my Bell T-shirt and hard hat. He announced the price: "Three dollars."

I was slightly taken aback, even though I WAS in the fashionable Hamptons. "Three dollars???" I said. "Ja, three dollars" he answered. "One dollar for the bagel, one dollar to toast it, and one dollar for the cream cheese. You verk for the phone company, ja? can afford it!"

Turns out, as I learned from some of the older guys in the gang, when Otto came to the US as a teenager, having been a graduate, in fact, of a German trade school for electricians, right after WW2, he was denied employment mit the phone company, because he was, after all, a recent citizen of one of our enemies, and was not yet a citizen of the US. He was obviously a security threat. He bore a grudge against Ma Bell for 40-something years, because they wouldn't hire him, and took it out on telephone workers whenever he could.

I'm a kraut/mick myself, so I can say without the PC police chastising me, that he was the incarnation of the famed German trait of "Don't get mad...get even."
Posted By: RATHER BE FISHING Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/15/20 02:12 AM
Funny Ed....1980 I was getting out of the military after being an installer for 4 years. Like you I passed the test and heard nothing. When I called someone I knew at the local operating company they had one of the hiring mangers let me know the same thing. Looking for someone a little different looking than me. Went into the interconnect world and holy crap it was like robbing a bank. I can remember installing Northern Telecom PBXs in many locations. It wasn't uncommon to install 70 phone PBX systems in banks for $250K. Companies would get prepaid for systems and deliver them in 6-8 months. Picked up $600K checks for projects many times. I started at one interconnect that was one of the fastest growing companies in the US. When I showed up they couldn't buy enough vans. They told me to go get my service vehicle and I could get what ever I could work out of. The headquarters building was full of company bought Cadillacs. I asked if they were sure about anything to work out of. They said no problem. I drove a white Lincoln Town Car Cartier Series with a ladder hanging out of the trunk. Best riding service vehicle i ever had. Man I miss those days.
Posted By: Silversam Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/15/20 02:52 AM
I have a very similar story. In 1974 I applied to NY Telephone for a job. Went down to the employment office on...Madison Avenue? Anyway. I took the test. I aced it. I knew SxS stitching, PA, ICM and 1A2. I was rejected and I was told that "At this time we are only hiring minorities." I asked how many people of Jewish extraction they had working at NY Tel?

Let me say that NY Tel - in the 50's, 60's and into the '70s hired no one who wasn't Irish or German - or at least had an Irish or German name and looked like they could pass.

The fellow who was interviewing me said he had all the information in front of him and looked it up.

"Something under 1/10 of 1%" was his answer.

"I would think that in NYC with its current ethnic makeup, that would not only make me a minority - but a discriminated against minortiy" I said.

"Yes" he said, "but you're the wrong minority".

And I said.....

And they had Security escort me out of the building.

And I stayed in Interconnect and never looked back.

Posted By: Arthur P. Bloom Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/15/20 10:13 PM
And if you wait long the Italians say..."What goes around, comes around." Now Mother Bell is an old lady with running sores, living on the streets in a cardboard box, as it were. And we all...every one of her children and the ones she refused to adopt (like Ed and S-Sam and Fishin'), are sitting at home getting our checks and laughing.

Time to get off the Negative Nelly soapbox, and get back to telling happy stories. Like the Hawaiian Music option. Or the beeping 2500 set. Or...
Posted By: jeffmoss26 Re: Letter to the Union Hall - 04/15/20 10:20 PM
I love these stories!
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