An overwhelming majority of wireless tower climbers at QualTek in Henderson, Nev., filed a petition last week with the National Labor Relations Board for a union election. The workers, members of the Tower Climbers Union/Communications Workers of America, are the first group of tower climbers in the United States who have filed for formal union representation.
“We call upon Qualtek management to work with the Tower Climbers Union/CWA to negotiate a fair contract for tower climbers,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “These workers put their lives at risk every day to maintain the wireless network for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. There is a growing movement among tower climbers across the country, and as hundreds of tower climbers join together in our union, we are building power on the job to raise wages, benefits, and ensure a safer workplace.
Dubbed “the most dangerous job in America,” tower climbing involves scaling towers to perform inspections and tests, handle repairs, and install equipment ranging from antennas, amplifiers, and fiber optic cable, to lighting systems. The major carriers who build and own the towers often farm out the maintenance work to contractors like Qualtek.
In addition to their work taking place hundreds of feet off the ground, tower climbers must also haul up and down a tower all the tools and equipment needed to perform their job. The dangerous nature of this work coupled with lack of adequate training and equipment has led to a number of safety hazards, including deaths and injuries of workers. Over the past 5 years alone, there have been 33 reported deaths at wireless tower sites.
"The entire communications industry and its customers depend on tower climbers, and we deserve more than what we have been receiving for many years," said Erik Messenger, a Qualtek worker and member of the new union. "That's why my co-workers and I at Qualtek voted to join the Tower Climbers Union/CWA. Our union is just a start. Thousands of tower climbers are ready to rise up and band together. We are excited and proud to be part of this movement for better working conditions and improved safety."
About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, manufacturing, tech, and other fields.