FCC adopts dangerous, anti-worker One Touch, Make Ready policy

The Republican-controlled FCC voted Thursday to adopt a dangerous anti-worker “One Touch, Make Ready” (OTMR) policy that sends CWA members’ work -- done by skilled employees who know the equipment and have extensive training -- to unskilled, untrained, low-wage contractors. The Commission ignored hundreds of comments submitted by workers urging the the FCC to protect public and worker safety and protect good jobs.

The OTMR policy allows 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.

In addition to the serious safety risks, the policy also invalidates sections of private contracts negotiated by CWA and its members’ employers, affecting thousands of workers.

"It's incredibly disappointing that the FCC approved this harmful anti-worker OTMR policy that risks public and worker safety, especially after so many skilled CWA workers warned them about the consequences," said CWA District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt. "This policy gives our work – work with good, family-supporting wages and benefits – to unskilled, untrained, low-wage contractors. CWA members will keep fighting to enforce our right to the work guaranteed to us by contract against any attempts to take it away from us."

One of the public comments to the FCC opposing the policy from Steven in Brandenburg, Kentucky, revealed 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.”

More than 1,300 CWA members 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. This 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 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.”