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GTE Reports 50 Cases of Vandalism Since Strike

August 22, 1988

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) _ Long-distance telephone service was restored early today to about 22,300 GTE North Inc. customers after cables were cut deliberately in Three Rivers, company officials said.

It was the latest of about 50 acts of vandalism to GTE telephone equipment since last week, when 2,200 union employees struck the company’s Michigan subsidiary, GTE spokesman Lowell Kinney said. GTE provides telephone service to 500,000 Michigan customers in 58 of the state’s 83 counties.

The company usually has about 24 cases of vandalism in a year, Kinney said.

″We have no idea who is doing it, and we won’t speculate,″ Kinney said. ″But there’s no question the damage is intentional.″

Kinney said the cases were being reported to the appropriate law enforcement officials. Most cases involve cut telephone cables or damaged telephone equipment.

Local 116 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers called the strike after contract negotiations collapsed last Tuesday.

Union spokesman Keith Flewelling said today the union takes no responsibility for the reported damage.

″I’m certain that the company is blaming our striking workers for it. But obviously, we don’t condone vandalism,″ Flewelling said. ″What we want to do is get back to the bargaining table.″

No new talks have been scheduled.

In the latest case of vandalism, about 26,000 customers in eight southwest Michigan communities were left without long-distance service from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. today after someone cut four cables at a long-distance switching center at Three Rivers, Kinney said. He said some parts of those communities rely on long-distance service to reach their sheriff’s department or nearest hospital.

Kinney said repair crews still were trying to restore service to about 3,700 customers in the Constantine and White Pigeon areas this morning.