Henderson, Nev. — A majority of wireless tower climbers at QualTek have voted for union representation with the Communications Workers of America in an election that was conducted yesterday. The workers, members of the Tower Climbers Union/CWA, are the first group of tower climbers in the United States to win formal union representation.
“This is an exciting moment for us and for every tower climber who wants better working conditions and improved safety,” said Derek Combs, a Tower Technician II at Qualtek and member of the new union. “We are the bedrock of the wireless communications industry, but our lives have consistently been taken for granted and neglected. To win respect you need power, and when you are a worker, power comes from negotiating a union contract.”
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.
“Qualtek tower climbers put their lives at risk every day to maintain the wireless network for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. By voting for their union, they have taken the next step toward building power to raise wages and benefits and ensure a safer workplace,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “Now it is time for Qualtek to show these workers the respect they deserve and bargain a fair contract.”
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.