COVID-19 and Rochester Labor
CWA Local 1170
Interview with John Pusloskie (President Communication Workers of America Local 1170), 5 March 2021
CWA Local 1170 represents seven hundred members, including three hundred at Frontier Communications and others at AT&T, retail stores, area print shops, public libraries and a Department of Public Works.
During the pandemic Frontier remained open, with linemen working outdoors as usual while office workers have been working from home. Initially it was difficult to acquire masks and sanitizers for workers, but management soon provided both and instituted daily ten-minute safety conference calls with supervisors to monitor working conditions. Most members have little interaction with the public on the job, which kept the numbers of affected members lower than might otherwise have been the case, though one retiree has recently died.
Other than Frontier, CWA-represented workplaces tend to be fairly small — some members were furloughed as libraries shut down, others were quarantined if coworkers became ill. Members were required to wear PPE supplied by the employer; in general members have been kept safe on the job.
The union has continued to support members on issues relating to safety, health insurance and wages, though there have been no in-person meetings for the past year and the Executive Board meets by conference call. Regular communications via email have kept members informed. The CWA office shut down for two weeks in December, when all four officers contracted COVID-19.
Although Frontier will be running fiber to Rochester residents in 2021, they will be sub-contracting the work to non-union, out-of-state workers.
Like others, CWA members have been stressed during the pandemic due to competing demands of work and home, especially when students are learning from home. Additionally, as employers like Frontier recognize that the on-site presence of local workers is unnecessary, fears that jobs will be outsourced to out-of-state non-union workers intensify.