Communications Workers of America and Michigan Leaders Rally With Build Back Better Michigan Tour in Support of Biden’s Broadband Initiatives

Labor and community leaders call for policies that push private companies to bring next generation broadband to all communities, and protect workers’ rights to join unions
Thursday, October 29, 2020

MICHIGAN -- Yesterday, Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton and CWA members joined Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich) and Congressmen Dan Kildee (MI-05) and Andy Levin (MI-09) for a Biden campaign virtual rally to highlight how the Vice President’s plan to invest in broadband infrastructure would bring jobs to Michigan's communities, support education, empower workers, and close the digital divide.

The pandemic has shown how important reliable broadband is and how many people still don’t have access, especially in rural communities. In addition, President Trump’s 2017 corporate tax cuts promised jobs and investments in workers that never materialized. Subsequently, AT&T has reported that it has cut over 50,000 jobs since that tax cut went into effect.

“AT&T’s retreat from its responsibility to the communities it serves has been accelerated by bad policy decisions made by the Trump Administration,” said Chris Shelton, Communications Workers of America President. “Joe Biden knows what our country needs to do in order to ensure that all Americans have access to the broadband infrastructure they need. We need to make federal funds available to build out that network while mandating that telecom companies build out to rural America and the urban areas they have left behind. This country has done it before. We did it during the Great Depression when our country connected everyone with electricity through the Rural Electrification program. It’s just what we did in the 50’s with the interstate highway system. And under a Biden-Harris Administration and a Democratic Congress, we will do it with high speed broadband in the 2020s.”

In Michigan, AT&T has cut 35% of its union-represented jobs since 2018, hobbling its ability to deploy broadband aggressively and ensure quality service to its customers. Analysis from CWA shows that Michigan has the lowest fiber internet penetration from AT&T among the company’s 21 states with wireline service. For predominantly rural counties in Michigan, AT&T reported to the FCC that a grand total of 291 households have access to fiber out of 320,970 total households served by AT&T in those counties, or 0.1% of all households.

A Biden Administration would invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure while closing the digital divide in rural and urban areas while creating good, union jobs that expand the middle class.

“Close to a third of our students in the state don’t have access to the connectivity necessary in order to have access to do their homework and get their work done. That's not acceptable, and we have to make sure that everybody has it,” said Senator Gary Peters. “We've got to make the investments. Joe Biden is clearly focused on that with a billion several billion dollar plus program. When we put in an infrastructure program after we take the majority, high speed internet is going to be a priority.”

“If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people need to feel connected to each other. For many of us, the internet is the only way that we can do that,” said DeAndre Davis, Communications Workers of America Local 4100 member. “AT&T CEO John Stankey has said that the fiber buildout is one of the company's top priorities during this pandemic. You have to scratch your head and wonder why AT&T would ever lay off a union employee, an employee that they have invested years of training and money in to make them professionals. We have lost more jobs to contractors than we could count over the years. This is all based on profit. And I'm here to tell you that this is no time to put profit over people.”

“What an opportunity for our country, to put CWA members to work to connect every house in this country with high speed connectivity that has all kinds of benefits for our country,” said Representative Andy Levin. “If we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and take back the Senate and win the House, we are going to pass the whole agenda that we passed in the House that went over and gathered dust on Mitch McConnell's desk.”

“In urban areas and in rural areas, we have pockets of folks that just don't have access to high quality broadband in order to access services, whether it's distance learning in some fashion or telemedicine. So this deficiency, this inequity, creates big problems in our society, it locks people away from critical services at a time when they absolutely need them,” said Representative Dan Kildee. “We all have to commit to make sure that we elect Joe Biden because he has a plan to connect millions of Americans to one another and to essential services, by investing in infrastructure and investing in high quality broadband in those rural and urban places.”

“I come to you today as an educator just to talk about some of the issues that we have seen,” said Amy Urbanowski-Nowak, Birch Run Education Association President. “I had students who drove to McDonald's, to sit in their cars and get internet. I had parents who had to drive their kids to the school, and they had to sit in the car in order to get access to the internet. And that is completely unacceptable. This is something that definitely has to change. I come to you as an educator today to say that we have to elect Joe Biden because he has a plan for expanding rural broadband internet and rural communities and other communities. And he's going to close the digital divide.”

Video of the event is available upon request.

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