Union Association Requests Congress Attach Hiring Strings to Federal Broadband Dollars

The Communications Workers of America wants provisions in broadband bills barring hiring of subcontractors.

Union Association Requests Congress Attach Hiring Strings to Federal Broadband Dollars
CWA President Chris Shelton

July 12, 2021 – A union association representing workers in telecommunications is asking Congress to attach strings to federal dollars that go to broadband infrastructure, including forbidding telecommunications companies from subcontracting for builds.

As part of its “Build Broadband Better” campaign, launched Thursday, the Communications Workers of America said it will plow money into an advertising campaign to ensure internet access builds be done with “experienced, trained union workers, not low-wage subcontractors who make a quick buck and skip town.”

“The union is pushing for provisions that would prohibit companies that receive federal funding for broadband buildout from subcontracting the work in order to undercut its union employees jobs and standards and that would protect workers’ right to organize a union,” the CWA said in a Thursday press release, adding it will be lobbying all levels of government on its message.

The association has pointed to the many Americans who don’t have access to the Federal Communications Commission’s minimum speed goal of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload as a reason for the experienced workforce to be involved in the builds.

Experts have noted that there may be a shortage of trained worker to supply the rest of the country with fiber – and this could be exacerbated when it comes to the next-generation 5G networks.

“When providers have taken federal funds for deployment, they’ve repeatedly failed to deliver on promises to union workers and customers, often outsourcing the construction work to low-wage contractors who cut corners and risk safety and quality,” the release said.

The pointed out to widespread union job cuts since 2017, including 3,400 at Verizon, 4000 at Lumen Technologies, and 33,000 AT&T.

Some of the labor provisions asked for by the CWA are included in legislation introduced by members of Congress. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, a bill that pledged $80 billion for broadband infrastructure and reintroduced by Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, require bargaining and binding arbitration.

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