A message from President Dave Weidlich
We're fighting for strong labor standards in broadband buildout! Two weeks ago I testified at the Labor & Public Employees committee public hearing in support of H.B. 6862, “An Act Concerning Broadband Construction and the Prevailing Wage”.
This important bill would ensure that all public dollars for broadband deployment support
- Prevailing wage
- High labor standards
- Fiber networks
- Speedy deployment
With millions of dollars of federal infrastructure funding coming to Connecticut, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. No one knows better than we do that low-road employers who use out-of-state, non-union contractors do shoddy, dangerous work. Not only is it unsafe for us and for our communities, it leaves thousands of Connecticut residents without reliable broadband.
We’re fighting to put a stop to this - but if we don’t get legislation passed to require strong labor standards in broadband buildout, these shoddy subcontractors will keep doing inferior work.
CWA District 1, Senate Labor Committee and Electeds Introduce Labor Standards Bill for Connecticut Broadband Funding
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1298 -District 1, alongside Senator Julie Kushner and State Rep. Manny Sanchez, have introduced a bill pushing to attach strong labor standards language to Connecticut’s broadband funding budget. The bill (H.B. 6862) was passed out of the House Labor and Public Employees Committee yesterday. The measure would ensure that public dollars would benefit the public good by requiring that all federally-funded broadband deployment across the state be subject to prevailing wage requirements and carried out by high-road employers using a skilled workforce.
With the state poised to receive $95 million in funding for broadband from President Biden’s Federal Infrastructure package, Connecticut has an unprecedented opportunity to deliver high-quality, high-speed broadband to all Connecticuters, including, crucially, unserved and underserved households and small businesses in the state’s urban and rural areas. To ensure this goal is realized, critical provisions must be included to ensure the highest quality public investment while safeguarding good jobs for telecom workers.
At a recent hearing, David Weidlich Jr., President of CWA Local 1298, encouraged the committee to support the bill, underscoring the importance of using local, highly-trained workers to ensure the state maximizes this historic investment. Upholding high standards in broadband deployment and supporting good jobs across the state, Weidlich explained, would curb hiring of out-of-state subcontractors, whose subpar work not only results in poor-quality internet service, but also threatens the safety of workers and communities.
“Public dollars should be used to fund high-quality networks - which require the use of a well-trained workforce,” Weidlich stated. “Typically, these [low-road] contractors are non-union, lack adequate safety training, have very high turnover, and undermine the wages and standards established by union-represented telecom employees through collective bargaining agreements. The result is a disturbing record of accidents that cause damage to utilities, public property, and homes while presenting serious risks to workers and public safety.”
Low-road subcontracting has become increasingly prevalent in the telecommunications industry and CWA has been actively raising concerns about its impact on workers and consumers. An October 2020 report by CWA exposed the extent to which carriers rely on a vast network of contracting companies to build out their networks and connect customers to broadband, often cutting their own union employees out of much of this work.
In creating the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, the function of which is to allocate $42.45 billion dollars in IIJA funding individually to states, the Biden-Harris administration listened to CWA’s demands—that funding be used to deploy affordable and reliable high-speed broadband for all Americans, and to give preference to ISP employers who maintain high-road labor practices.
“Attaching strong labor standards, including prevailing wage, to the broadband buildout in Connecticut is both smart for our local economies, and will protect families in our state,” said Senator Julie Kushner. “Such standards increase productivity, safety and quality, and disincentivize providers from using cheaper, out-of-state contractors. Adopting prevailing wage standards is a smart and effective strategy for achieving high-quality broadband deployment while promoting the well-being of workers and the local community.”
CWA District 1 successfully achieved those provisions for the people of Syracuse, N.Y., when it secured labor standard language last year in an $11 million rural broadband grant that made broadband available across Onondaga County.
“This will be the most significant investment in broadband infrastructure in our generations, and it’s critical that we build it right,” said Representative Manny Sanchez. “That means regulating in a way that ensures equitable distribution, safety, quality work and the best future-proof technology. We cannot risk a haphazard buildout, and these labor standards will ensure that the company receiving public funds adhere to strict guidelines that will benefit Connecticut for generations to come.”
Local 1298 represents more than 2000 telecommunications workers who deliver high-quality broadband to Connecticut families across the State.