Tower Climbers Union settles with QualTek Wireless and Swartley Tower Services
Tower Climbers Union/CWA members who worked at QualTek Wireless in Henderson, NV, reached a settlement with the company that will provide them with a severance package and make it easier for workers to organize at QualTek in Henderson.
In May 2022, the workers became the first group of tower technicians in the United States to win formal union representation. When QualTek filed for bankruptcy a year later and laid off the workers, the company was required under U.S. labor law to bargain with the union over the impact of the layoffs. The settlement is a result of that bargaining.
“If we hadn’t formed our union, QualTek could have just handed us our pink slips and waved goodbye,” said Derek Combs, a member of the Tower Climbers Union/CWA and former QualTek tower technician. “Instead, they had to sit down with us and work out a settlement. The severance money is a big help for us and our families. The agreement we worked out for the company to remain neutral when workers want to join a union means that the movement for better working conditions and safety in our industry that we helped start will get stronger.”
The total amount of the severance package is $40,000, which will be split among the 8 workers who were employed by QualTek in Henderson at the time of the layoffs. QualTek emerged from bankruptcy proceedings in July, 2023.
In a second win for Tower Climbers Union/CWA, Swartley Tower Services Communications settled with Roland Bachelder, a tower climber who faced discrimination and termination for his support of the union movement.
Mr. Bachelder has more than a decade of experience as a tower technician, advancing from Tower Hand to Foreman and earning positive performance evaluations from STS management. Mr. Bachelder became a founding member of TCU/CWA in February 2021 and was vocal about his support for the union movement at work and publicly on social media, including Facebook groups that were followed by members of management. On June 10, 2022, Mr. Bachelder told a manager, in conversation, “We all need to unionize already.” On June 14, Mr. Bachelder was terminated with no explanation.
“In our industry, stuff like this happens all the time. We’re the ones risking our safety up on the towers, but tower climbers get terminated for speaking up all the time, even if it violates labor laws,” said Tom Reeves, a tower climber and member of TCU/CWA. “What’s different about Roland is that he had a union fighting with him, so he got a settlement check to take care of his family. Before TCU, we had to just walk away in these situations. But we’re not on our own anymore; we’ve got each other and we’ve got a union to stand with us.”
According to the settlement agreement, Mr. Bachelder will receive $25,000 from his former employer.
“This settlement is not just a win for Roland, but a victory for every tower climber. The dedicated workers who build and maintain America’s communication infrastructure must have their rights respected, just as any other worker in any other industry,” said Claude Cummings Jr., President of the Communications Workers of America. “But for too long, tower climbers have not been treated with the respect they deserve. This risky work is made more dangerous when telecommunications providers push tower maintenance to subcontractors who cut corners and skirt labor laws. We will hold employers like STS Communications to account and we will fight for safety and security for workers in the wireless industry.”
Tower Climbers United Wins Victory in Settlement with Swartley Tower Services (CWA, Jan. 11, 2024)
Tower Climbers Reach Settlement With QualTek Wireless (CWA, Dec. 21, 2023)
First-ever comprehensive labor neutrality agreement in semiconductor industry sets historic precedent