I talk about how the unions are relevant and so many people tell me that they are not, and yet, so many people, especially workers, are talking about it. Well, here is someone who is going the extra mile to make sure that something is done. Bryce Mallory is one of several people who are taking the union to the next level. There is so much more in the podcast, but he is starting a fund-raiser to get the money to start the union. He is creating a YouTube video so he can get the word out and we talked for over an hour about the process and the many issues in the field today. Remember that Bryce is a tower climber and is vocal about what is wrong in the industry. You may not agree with everything that he says, but he says what a lot of people have been thinking about for the last year or so. Just keep an open mind when you listen! Go to the bottom of the blog for videos!
Bryce is trying to start a union for the tower climbers. He has reached out to the Ironworkers Union and now he is trying to organize a group on his own. He felt the Ironworkers union did not represent the tower climber’s needs and that they had little interest in helping the tower climbers on a national level.
Unionization of the industry is something that climbers talk about. Many are in a union, although not the same union and there is no tower workers union, yet. To unionize this industry would be a daunting task, one that would take an organized and consistent effort. Not to mention money to support it. It would take a group that is patient but willing to push when they had to. It would also take a large group of workers to enroll.
One of the problems with unionization of the industry is that there is not a large number of employees working at one company. In other word a union can’t go in a bargain with one large company to gain a contract. This industry is made up of smaller companies with maybe 2 or 3 crews of tower workers. Each crew may consist of 2 to 5 members depending upon their skill set. That is why unions have been efficient in the past because they were able to bargain with large companies and then work their way down to the smaller companies. The tower worker industry is not like that, it is generally smaller companies.
Why is the industry made up of smaller industries? Well, here is the way I see it. The work is feast or famine, so a larger company would have to ramp up, say hire many employees to build, lay them off when the work stops or a large customer, like AT&T, decides to change it’s outlook for the year. In today’s world it is hard to stay laid off for a year until the next build happens. The other reason is training, insurance, the cost of safety is a lot of money. Insurance will eat you alive. Finally, another reason is how the tower worker is treated by contractors or turf vendors. They treat them like a tool, only using it when the work is hot only to shelf it when the work stops. Since many tower workers work for small companies, the less reputable contractors don’t always pay their tower crews. I knew people that thought this was a viable business plan to work the small company and not pay them, then to tell them if they do the next job they would pay them, but they never paid them all the money just some of it until the smaller company was out of business. Then they move onto the next company. Sad, but true. This is one of the reasons that the industry needs help, money is put before the people and the people need money to not only live, but to pay for all the safety training and equipment needed to do the job. I remember hen the carriers used to work with the climbers, they would ask for payment terms of net 120, 4 months to get paid. It is better now, but if you wait 4 months for a paycheck then you may starve to death.
Another problem they face is that tower climbers are so spread out, all over the US, many travel, and there may be about 20,000 that would actually enroll. It would be a daunting task to sign them up. To get them to have the time to organize may seem crazy.
Yet, I hear rumblings of forming a tower union from many of these people, you know why? I think it’s because throughout the past several years with all the advances in safety, we still lose many a year. This year, 2015, we lost a young woman in March, the first of the year. So one this year is much less than last year, but is that because workers are practicing 100% tie off or is it because this has been a slow growth year? Don’t think OSHA doesn’t know how many we lose, it’s more than they show on their site because we lost some to auto accidents and other accidents.
Now, there are many climbers who are in unions. Some are still in the Ironworkers union because the local chapter supports them. Others are in the IBEW because their local chapter supports them. These organizations both seem to have an organized training programs, they support their people, offer to keep their members training records available and ready. If a union company needs a climber they can go to the hall and request one. If one is available then they go there to work.
Bryce is one man who took it upon himself to work to see that dream come true. He would like to offer the workers a choice. He is willing to go toe to toe with the companies that hire the climbers and make sure that tower workers get a fair deal.
In this interview he talks about how he plans to start the union and get it going. He brings up man issues in the industry that made him want to start this challenging endeavor. While many of you have your opinions about unions in general, he brings up the critical issues as he sees them in the tower industry.
In this talk we go over the current issues that OSHA faces and how they could do more for the tower industry. We understand that they have budgetary issues but that is hard to explain to someone who gets hurt.
Listen to the podcast and tell me what you think!
To contact Bryce about the union:
Feedback is appreciated!