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CWA: Working on Electrical Equipment Requires Qualified Personnel

August 5, 2018

By Stephanie West

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Skilled CWA telecommunications workers have been outspoken that moving electrical equipment on poles is dangerous work. A nationwide “One Touch, Make Ready” (OTMR) policy being considered by the FCC would allow companies to add or remove equipment to a utility pole without using qualified personnel. Dangerous mistakes while working on electrical equipment can cause electrocution or poles to fall.

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 accepted. Approval of a nationwide OTMR initiative would allow companies to hire unskilled non-union workers to remove equipment on electrical lines. In addition to the serious safety risks, the proposal 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.

One of the FCC 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.”

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.”

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 initiative and enlisted support from a bipartisan group of elected officials.

August 5, 2018

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