NATIONWIDE -- Following the Biden Administration’s recent support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill which allocates $65 billion towards broadband infrastructure, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) today launched the “Build Broadband Better” campaign to ensure that the funding results in affordable, reliable broadband for all Americans and creates good union jobs. CWA is investing in a public education campaign, six-figure TV and digital ad spend, and political action that includes the deployment of its Broadband Brigade, made up of frontline broadband workers from across the country.
“If the pandemic taught us anything, it taught us that everybody needs broadband. It’s like electricity or water,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “CWA has been pushing for universal high speed internet access for 15 years. We support a shared partnership between private companies and the federal government to get this done. But Congress needs to make sure it’s done right, with experienced, trained union workers, not low-wage subcontractors who make a quick buck and skip town.”
CWA’s TV and digital ad campaign highlights the essential work of union employees in broadband deployment. The ad also calls on Congress to support broadband legislation that will expand connectivity for families nationwide. 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.
Broadband Brigade leaders will be educating union members and the public and lobbying federal, state and local elected officials to secure enforceable commitments from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that want to use public funds to expand broadband. Those commitments include the creation of good union jobs and high quality fiber-optic broadband access for the communities that need it most.
“I have a great job. I help families get online with fast, reliable broadband internet,” Kojak Valentine, a CWA worker and member of the Broadband Brigade in Detroit, Michigan, says in the ad. “Expanding access will help students learn and the economy grow, and making sure that experienced union workers build it means reliable service and good jobs.”
Broadband providers have failed to provide universal, affordable access, leaving more than a third of households nationwide without home internet that meets the Federal Communication Commission’s minimum definition of broadband. And 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.
While broadband providers continue to push the narrative that a shortage of skilled workers is restricting their ability to build out broadband infrastructure, CWA points to a fissured workforce, stagnant wages, and a lack of investment by major broadband providers in next-generation network deployment as the underlying issues in the field. In a letter from CWA to local electeds in May, the union highlighted providers’ widespread union job cuts since 2017, including 33,000 at AT&T, 3,400 at Verizon and 4,000 at Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink).
“Coming out of the Great Recession in 2009, CWA played a critical role in securing recovery funds for providers in an effort to get our laid-off members back on the job. But instead of bringing back their highly-skilled workforce, these companies hired unqualified contract workers and then proceeded with thousands of layoffs of union employees,” said CWA Director of Government Affairs Dan Mauer. “Today, we know that ISPs will not hold themselves accountable to ensuring that deployment is done right. That’s why we need legislation that protects good union jobs and workers’ right to organize. We look forward to working with the Biden-Haris administration and our country’s elected officials to ensure an effective build out.”
For more information on CWA’s Build Broadband Better Campaign please visit buildbroadbandbetter.org