I am writing with some good news to share and a call to action. As you know, last year Congress passed and President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Included in this historic and much needed investment in our national infrastructure was a record $65 billion to ensure the deployment and adoption of high speed broadband in all corners of the country. One of the President’s priorities for the bill was the creation of good-paying jobs with labor protections and the right to organize and bargain collectively–in other words, union jobs.
Before the legislation was even finalized we began working closely with the Biden Administration to provide our perspective on how the rules for companies applying for the funding could help support good jobs for CWA members. In particular we were focused on prioritizing fiber as the best technology for broadband deployment and that funding must not go to low road contractors or fly by night companies that abuse their workers and harm customers. We made it clear that to be successful, funding must go to companies that know what they’re doing and wherever possible that employ a well-trained, safety conscious union workforce. Due to this work, we secured language in the bill prioritizing higher-speed fiber projects and companies with strong labor records.
On May 13th, the Biden Administration released the rules required for companies applying for the funding and due to CWA’s hard work, the rules include many of our priorities for the funding. The rules clearly state that states must consult with unions as they develop plans to award these funds to providers and prioritize projects focused on building out fiber to as many places as possible. Employers who receive funds must abide by high road labor standards.
But this is just one step in the process to make sure that the funds either go to support CWA members' jobs or at a minimum do not drag down our standards, wages and working conditions. The next step of this process is at the state level. States must develop plans and applications that meet the requirements as outlined by the Biden Administration. Because one of the specific requirements of the states is to certify that they consulted with labor unions in the development of their state plans and applications, CWA must have robust and active engagement at the state level with governors and state legislatures. We need every one of you to engage in that process.
We will be having a virtual meeting on June 9th at 8 pm Eastern to talk about what the next phase of this campaign will look like. You need to register for the meeting at cwa.org/broadbandmeeting. Please feel free to share with your membership.
Finally, none of this could have been possible without our “Broadband Brigade.” This group of CWA members has been working hard for over a year now to promote our policies and explain the basics to legislators, other unions, progressive allies and others all around the country. They’ve done amazing work and will be the ones leading us in this effort for the next several years as we work to Build Broadband Better with CWA.
Christopher M. Shelton