Fiber-optic workers at OFS Fitel picket over low pay, dangerous working conditions ahead of contract expiration
Members of CWA Local 3263 and workers at the OFS Fitel, LLC fiber-optic manufacturing plant in Norcross, GA, held a picket demanding the company bargain in good faith to reach a new contract agreement that addresses inadequate pay and dangerous working conditions. CWA Local 3263 members passed a strike authorization vote earlier this month, and their contract expired on May 31.
As the backbone of the broadband industry, a strike would have severe impacts on the supply chain as crucial broadband buildout happens across the US. Contracts are also being bargained simultaneously for workers, members of CWA Local 1400, at another OFS facility in Sturbridge, MA.
“The work we do manufacturing fiber-optic cables is not easy. It takes a lot of training, skill, and is incredibly labor-intensive. Yet OFS treats us like we’re disposable,” said Isaac Coleman, President of CWA Local 3263. “We know how important the nationwide broadband rollout is. It’s one of the reasons we take so much pride in the work that we do. The wages OFS is offering to new hires, which are desperately needed due to already high turnover and increasing demand, is insulting. The company cannot expect to attract skilled talent for $16 an hour when workers can easily make that much or more working in much less dangerous and physically demanding jobs. No one wants to strike and it remains a very last resort, but the option is on the table if OFS does not fulfill our need for a fair contract.”
OFS workers are highly skilled, and the labor-intensive nature of their work can be incredibly dangerous. However, the starting rate for new employees remains as low as $16 an hour. OFS uses a two-tier wage system that creates different pay and benefit structures for long-term employees and new hires. While some workers have remained at OFS for 20, 30, or 50 years, wages for new hires lag by nearly 13 percent, causing high “churn and burn” turnover of nearly 60 percent. Members’ last contract was bargained in 2016, before rampant inflation began to rattle family households.
Despite OFS Fitel being owned by the highly profitable Furukawa Electric Co, the OFS Norcross plant is not well maintained, with workers citing falling ceiling tiles, dangerous 20-year-old machinery, nonoperational elevators, extreme temperatures, and more.
CWA members at fiber optic manufacturer OFS Fitel, LLC, held an informational picket demanding a fair contract.
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