As the FCC prepares to vote on Thursday on a “One Touch, Make Ready” (OTMR) proposal that endangers workers and could send CWA members’ work -- done by skilled employees who know the equipment and have extensive training -- to unskilled, untrained, low-wage contractors, CWA members and activists, many of them high-skilled telecommunications workers directly affected by the OTMR policy, warned the FCC in public comments about the devastating consequences if the policy is approved.
A nationwide OTMR policy would allow companies that want to add equipment to a utility pole to move existing equipment. A local OTMR ordinance in Louisville, Kentucky has been disastrous, with dangerous mistakes made by contractors. Pole attachment work is complex, and if done incorrectly, can cause electrocution or poles to fall.
One of the public comments from Steven in Brandenburg, Kentucky, reveals a firsthand account from a location where the OTMR policy has already been put into place. “I am a facility technician for AT&T. Our metro council in Louisville, Kentucky has passed an OTMR ordinance locally,” Steven wrote. “I have already seen questionable and unsafe attachments to our poles. I work on these lines every day. Imagine putting a ladder up 20 feet in the air on a wire that has not been secured properly. It can only end badly. Our job is dangerous enough without adding other untrained unregulated hands to the equation. I would ask that you consider all of these concerns before making a decision that may get someone seriously injured, or worse.”
In addition to the serious safety risks, the proposal also would invalidate sections of private contracts negotiated by CWA and its members’ employers, affecting thousands of workers.
More than 1,300 CWA members have submitted comments to the FCC raising concerns about the proposal.
Excerpts from the FCC public comments of CWA members and activists from across the country opposing the OTMR proposal:
Robert in Glen Oaks, New York: “OTMR is a horrible idea. Nobody wins when you take crucial telecommunications equipment and put it in the hands of poorly-trained, lowest bid contractors. This nation needs better for its important utility equipment.”
Jeff in Rutherfordton, North Carolina: “I have been a telephone lineman for five years and an employee at AT&T for 18 years. If this passes it will cause a chain reaction of accidents as well as potential fatalities. Line work is nothing to take lightly. There will be no accountability if just anybody can be hired to sweep through a neighborhood or town to get it done faster. It takes years and countless hours of training to handle the amount of weight and loads we deal with. Faster and cheaper isn't always the best option.”
Charles in Spokane, Washington: “As a retired telecom worker, there were years of safety training and practice during my career. Pole work – whether with climbing gear or from a bucket truck is inherently dangerous and one misstep can be fatal. Not to be done by just anybody. Clearances and safety practices have been developed over the years to protect life and infrastructure. OTMR is a bad policy.”
Patricia in DeLand, Florida: “This will not only cause workers to lose their jobs, it will increase the possibility that someone who does not understand what they are moving can actually kill or injure them, or can cause households or whole neighborhoods to lose their electric power, telephone or cable service. This idea is really not in the best interest of the public at all.”
Harold in Maiden, North Carolina: “This proposal puts both the lives of workers and the public at risk. I am a wire technician and work on these poles and am very concerned about my personal safety and job security. If contractors are allowed to do this work it is going to be unsafe for myself and fellow technicians as well as the public safety. Also, this will undermine my collective bargained contract and cause the company to lay off and shrink their workforce. We have seen a decline in the good paying jobs for low wages. Please take a serious look at the big picture, the jobs, and the safety.”
CWA members are leading the campaign to stop the policy from going nationwide. Over the past few months, they have gathered more than 9,000 signatures on a petition opposing this harmful policy and enlisted support from a bipartisan group of elected officials.
CWA District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt delivered the petition signatures Thursday to the FCC in Washington, D.C. Honeycutt and CWA Local 3310 member Chad Melton also met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioner Brendan Carr and staff from the offices of FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O’Rielly to discuss the concerns that workers have about the proposals.
“OTMR risks public and worker safety,” said Honeycutt. “And it gives our work – work with good, family-supporting wages and benefits – to unskilled, untrained low-wage contractors. We’ve been actively fighting OTMR policies across the south and now we’re making our voices heard at the FCC.”