Oct 8, 2020 - Labor Unions Sue Federal Government to Protect Frontline Workers

October 8, 2020

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CWA Exposes AT&T's Failures on Broadband and Good Jobs

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New reports that expose how AT&T has left communities without access to next-generation fiber networks and eliminated good jobs received wide media and political attention this week.

The reports, released by CWA, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and the Economic Policy Institute, cover digital redlining, AT&T's use of subcontractors, and the effect of subcontracting and union-busting campaigns on wages for telecommunications workers.

CWA's report on AT&T's use of subcontractors includes data from a recent member survey which found that techs who interact regularly with work done by contractors consistently see problems, including quality problems that increase costs (96%), service quality problems for customers (81%), and safety risks for workers and the public (57%). During a briefing this week for Congressional staff and reporters, CWA members talked about their personal experience dealing with the aftermath of shoddy subcontractor work and how AT&T has left communities without access to next-generation fiber networks and eliminated good jobs.

"In the areas where AT&T has made fiber available, my coworkers and I have to clean up after the contractors that AT&T hires to do set-up work for us to connect fiber to a customer's home," said Charles Fuentes, a premises technician for AT&T in San Antonio and a member of CWA Local 6143. "Many jobs related to buried service wires end up as repeat jobs for us because subcontractors will not go deep enough into the soil, pull fiber lines too hard causing damage, or they lay parallel lines and end up taking customers out of service in the process. Additionally, these subcontractors routinely fail to inspect the integrity of the lines. These basic errors make it harder to provide service for customers in a timely fashion."

"With the pandemic, the simmering crisis of digital redlining has become a five-alarm emergency," said Stan Santos, a splicing technician for AT&T and a member of CWA Local 9408 in the Central Valley of California. "There is a huge swath of communities along the westside of Fresno County that lack basic infrastructure for broadband. The majority of these communities are ignored, the landlines left to die, as AT&T seeks to slough off these markets and cut the jobs of CWA members who carry out the deployment work and maintenance. In my view, AT&T is cutting jobs and abandoning rural communities in order to minimize capital expenditures and debt to improve its short term stock value."

"AT&T's failures show that if we want to ensure all households have access to broadband and that the buildout of that broadband creates good jobs, the only way that will happen is if Congress acts to make explicitly sure it happens," said CWA's Director of Government Affairs Dan Mauer. "That means that passing the Moving Forward Act, with its strong investment in broadband infrastructure and its accompanying worker protections, and passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act to strengthen the National Labor Relations Act, must be at the top of Congress's agenda for 2021."


Labor Unions Sue Federal Government to Protect Frontline Workers From COVID-19

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Today, CWA joined other labor unions and environmental groups to sue the federal government over its failure to provide adequate reusable respirators, N95 masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment to essential workers. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., says Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf should immediately use the Defense Production Act to ensure adequate PPE supply for frontline workers. The agencies failed to respond to an August petition from the groups that demanded emergency action.

"It's difficult for healthcare workers to get supplies on a daily basis because employers are conserving what they have, and having to ask or find PPE on our own is a horrible practice," said Denise Abbott, an emergency room nurse in Buffalo, N.Y., and a member of CWA Local 1168. "Staff still have to reuse masks for the entire day unless they're dirty, damp, or damaged. PPE must be at the ready and used properly if we're ever going to see an end to this crisis. With the flu season fast approaching, healthcare workers are again facing great risk from this administration's failure to act."

Steady growth in COVID-19 cases nationwide has led to a shortage of lifesaving equipment – including gloves, masks, gowns, and sterilizing supplies – for millions of essential workers. This shortage has left CWA members without adequate respiratory protection throughout the pandemic in healthcare, telecommunications, airlines, public sector, manufacturing, retail, law enforcement, education, and broadcasting, media, and the news. People of color are more likely to be part of the essential workforce and at higher risk of death from the coronavirus.

"People are dying, and more people are going to die because the Trump administration has totally failed to protect Americans who have been on the job throughout the pandemic keeping our country running," said CWA President Chris Shelton. "Workers are terrified about the possibility of having to face a potential third surge of this COVID-19 virus during flu season without having access to adequate protective equipment. Trump and his cronies need to focus on the real problems people are facing and use every tactic within their power to get PPE produced and distributed to workers."


CWAers Phonebank Together to Elect Biden!

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With only a few weeks left until Election Day and CWAers in many states already voting, more than 500 volunteers have made thousands of calls in the past couple of days alone to flip the Senate and to elect Biden-Harris!

Join the fight now, don't miss out on a chance to connect with your fellow CWA members and do everything we can to ensure that working people finally have something to celebrate in November!

Sign up for our next National Day of Action today – CWA.org/GOTV2020.


CWAers are making thousands of calls to flip the Senate and to elect Biden-Harris!


Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, 2020

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This week, the AFL-CIO released "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect," a yearly report on the state of safety and health protections for America's workers. The report features national and state information on workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, the number and frequency of workplace inspections, penalties, funding, staffing, and public employee coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Under President Trump, many crucial safety and health protections have been repealed or weakened. OSHA now has the lowest number of job safety inspectors since the early 1970s, when the agency opened – totally unacceptable during a public health crisis.

The report notes that workplace violence deaths are on the rise and are now the second-leading cause of job death. Since Trump's election, efforts to address workplace violence have stalled at OSHA. In November 2019, the House passed the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act to protect these workers at especially high risk of violence on the job, but the bill has languished in Mitch McConnell's Senate.

This December will mark 50 years since Congress enacted the OSH Act, promising workers in this country the right to a safe job. Today, too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness, or death as preventable workplace tragedies continue to occur.

Read the full report here.