New Tower Climbers’ Video Features Mother of a Technician Who was Killed on the Job Calling on All Tower Climbers to Join the Union and Fight Back
Today, wireless tower technicians organizing to form a union with CWA released a powerful video describing the struggles faced by workers in the industry and calling on tower climbers, everywhere, to come together, join the union, and take action.
The video, featuring members of the Tower Climbers Union/CWA, provides a vivid window into the lives of tower climbers who take pride in the work they do connecting millions of Americans but often have to make the difficult choice between risking their safety and lives or taking on jobs under dangerous conditions.
“It takes a lot for you to have full service, five bars, and 5G,” says Carl Milloy, a tower climber featured in the video. Ryan Campbell adds, “When I first started, I worked three months straight, no days off. My biggest shift was 48 hours because we were trying to complete a quota.”
The workers, who are constantly overworked and underpaid, also explain the difficulties of living paycheck to paycheck while executives from the large telecom corporations at the top continue to reel in exorbitant bonuses and record level profits. “They make you do the work in a short time, and really the big companies put everything in their pockets,” explains Carlos Vasquez-Uscanga, who has worked in the industry for 14 years.
The video also features Kathy Pierce, a mother who courageously shares the story of her son, Chad, who fell 180 feet to his death after expressing his reservations about the climbing conditions. “They said he should have never been up there that day. There was ice on top of the tower. He thought he's gonna lose his job and that's why he climbed. The carrier didn't do anything. They said they weren't responsible,” shares Pierce. She adds, “I just hope that the tower climbers go union in the memory of my son.”
Unfortunately, this is far too common for tower climbers. The major carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, who rely on the workers to maintain service and roll out new technology, escape accountability by farming out the work to subcontractors. The workers organizing with CWA to form a union hope to change this by encouraging all tower technicians, as well as all workers who work at wireless sites, to stick together and take action.
As Dave Harrison, a 25+ year veteran in the industry featured in the video, put it, “One guy can't change the world, but you know 10,000 have a chance to make something better, something different.”
Just last week, tower technicians at QualTek in Henderson, Nev., became the first group of tower climbers in the United States to win formal union representation. They will now bargain for a contract that prioritizes worker safety, fair pay, and good benefits.
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.