Are Work Schedules Killing the Wireless Field Worker? YES!

Hey, I read an article from Jon Gelman (found here) about workers schedules. If you have the time I seriously recommend reading the article. It explains how so often schedules are completely out of control of the workers. When I read this headline I thought, finally, someone cares about the wireless field worker! However, this bill targets retail, food service, and cleaning industries, people who get to work close to home. (Once again the wireless field worker is ignored!) These industries apparently have rough schedules. This is a bill being proposed here in the states by Iowa Democrat Senator Tom Harkin that is going to change that. I don’t know this senator at all, or anything he has done, but I would like to see a bill like this one, found here, for the wireless field worker. Why? Because it focuses on how the workers lives that are greatly affected by their work schedules. This is because businesses often put the job first and families second. You see this when companies put the profits first by laying people off and working the people they have three times as hard to save the company, profits first. This bill is supposed to help people with their families and with continuing education. So let’s talk about why they are doing this, first off it has come to the attention of the government that the workers families can be devastated by these grueling schedules. People just can’t maintain a healthy family life nor can they continue to educate themselves. This will provide the workers with a schedule 2 weeks in advance and provide them with extra pay if they are sent home early without pay. Sound familiar?

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OK, here is where I vent, my opinions below.

Hey Senator Tom Harkin, ever work in wireless? I wonder, does anyone on Capitol Hill understand the wireless worker’s schedule? Schedules in wireless deployments are grueling and painful. When will this be magnified? Workers deserve fair schedules, right? Is it too much to ask to place some sanity in deployments? Did any politician ever work in wireless deployment? I don’t mean as an executive or as a CEO, but doing the field work? The only thing that is fair is……well, for the field worker not much. I mean you have all those perks like low pay, tough schedules, dangerous work, and hoping to get paid. With all of that on your side, why worry? Many wireless deployment companies work their people hard – physically and emotionally – by sending workers all over the country only to let them go the minute the work seems to be drying up. You get to see your family every other weekend and when you get laid off. I really don’t see that as fair. That is why so many of these guys are on the edge, irritable, and ready to explode. Don’t get me wrong, some people like the lifestyle, I would say about 10% in my guesstimate. Many people love climbing, it becomes a passion with many people. I don’t mean just for the thrill but for the combination of the work and product.So much passion can be ruined by these schedules and poor companies. However, if you work for a standup company, good business people, then you will really fall in love with the job and the business.

Schedules, family life, and pressure were the themes at the TIRAP conference, information found here and here. I think it’s amazing how long it is taking to get word to the US government beyond the DOL and FCC! How do we get the word to politicians? They seem to listen to carriers about the woes of the spectrum auctions.

The worker will need to find a way to get the word to the people who make the laws if they want to find a cure for this. Many wireless field workers deal with insane schedules, crazy jobs, remote locations, health hazards, corrupt employers, and mental health abuse. All this and then they find out that their per Diem has been cut or their paycheck is late or that when they return they are laid off. WOW! What a career move. Don’t forget that if there is an accident and the job is not complete they may not get paid! If they do have an accident, then they will be surrounded by lawyers who may want to blame them. All this and they have injuries that they will live with for the rest of their lives. Like they wanted to live this way for the rest of their live!

It is the old adage, if a climber gets laid off, does the customer care? Apparently not, but when the carrier lays off people it makes major news. Think about it. Did you read about Sprint lately? The funny thing is when they have a lay off people the stock value usually goes up, rewarding the stock holders for letting people go. I get it – the company is saving money by letting people go. There could be many reasons – the market changes, the management team planned poorly or could not grow the company or changing direction so now it’s time to make drastic changes. Everyone appreciates the downsizing, except the people who got laid off collecting unemployment. It really sucks for them. They need to find work in an industry that is tough to work in. They hit the streets to compete with their former co-workers for a new job.

I recently talked to someone who left the industry for different work, this was awhile ago but I remember he said in his email to me that “My worst day in this job is better than my best day as a climber.” He understood how hard the industry is to work in when the very people you are helping do everything they can to devalue your livelihood. He may be reading this so he knows who he is. If he reads this I am sure he will comment.

So, it’s great that the retail, food service, and cleaning industries have an advocate in government working for them. Who is the wireless worker’s advocate? Please, fill me in. I look to the FCC and the DOL, (OSHA), as our friends  and allies looking out for us in Washington. Maybe we need a senator or a congressman who wants the madness to end. Who is it? Please tell me! Who will help the wireless field worker?

Be smart, be safe, and pay attention.

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  1. Wade,
    I notice that you are 2 hrs ahead of me , what state ?

    I do understand the problem to resolved ,regarding actual numbers of real bodys in the work force . I don’t quite believe that the number of workers could be near what is stated or implied through wireless estimator job openings and the fact that the majorority of positions are being farmed out through recruiters ,who will accept you as acandidate but not put you to work as they actually are simply stocking their inventory workers according to the hiring trends indicated through upcoming possible projects .

    I belong as acandidate to 4 separate companies yet I have no work.
    this recruiting practice is what I find to be one of the points that you had shared ,although not directly stated .


  2. Wade ,
    Just in from the airport, 3:10 A.M , pacific time .
    Had the chance to read through your article, while I was sitting at LAX waiting for the last hop that takes me the rest of the way home.

    Are wireless workers stretched thin through the schedules we are presented with ? you mentioned of course the most common place
    reasons, poor management ,quick project completion ,( usually followed by a vicious project punch list ) for quick project pay out .
    On and on .
    I could not have gotten into a more satisfying trade than Telecomm.
    In 1984 I started as a grunt on a line crew building CATV plant
    in Orange County ,CA . I was hooked for life after I climbed my first Telco pole , (35ft).
    Since then,just as most all of us . I built and developed my craft within the . As I viewed this as my lifes trade, I included obtaining the proper training /certifications for the
    technical skills that were required as new technologies were introduced .
    Trust me,over the years,we ( field tech.’s ) have probably spent more book time in keeping current with the latest and greatest .
    that we most likely surpass the majority of standard college students
    book time spent .

    Apologize for the lengthy foreward . But it is my segway to
    addressing the points you stated .
    The word I will use is ” disappointed” and maybe also , the phrase
    ” used and abused and then forgotten “.
    After 19+ yrs in this trade, There has not been ,( exceptions
    of the very few ) employers either big or small that I have seen, pay
    a telecomm. field worker the respect and recognition that most all of them rate .
    crying and saying life is no fair and I am invisible to everybody,
    does not have a place here .

    If change for the better , ( long term employment, rights protection,
    opportunity for a more workable rotation period and so forth ) is what telecom workers want or are looking for.
    Let’s take a moment and look at our brothers in the Telco and Power segment of our industry . Before I say it, let’s just remind ourselves that you may write to who ever you wish . How ever, ask your self who does a person holding public office defer to first and who does he defer to secondly .
    First deferred to will be the largest collective . Secondly ,if at all with real seriousness, will be the unfocused and uncollected.

    Now I will say it , UNIONIZATION
    be realistic . do you see any public governing body ,apart from federal oversight ,which basically is tethered to segments of health and safey only. ever being able to control or direct the Multi billion dollar per year industry in how the workers that they employ are treated ? make them give us hug and say don’t worry we’re doing great .trust us we have your back.

    A little strong ? second approach ;
    a extremely large and focused unbending collaboration of field workers maintaining a high level of commitment .
    ( strange but if not mistaken that mirrors a brotherhood of workers )


    • Hey Chad,
      Thanks for the feedback! I have mentioned Unionization before – it seems that it would help the situation. I know that union shops I have worked with have done a great job in training and preparing the climbers and workers. I would like to think that it would be something that all the workers could get behind, but, as you have seen, not many workers are on board, yet. I am not sure how to approach the climbers to get the support they need.
      I would like to think that the DOL and FCC would have our backs. The workers still have to worry about the “getting paid” issues in the real world.
      I talked to someone who was around back when the iron workers did this work. They all got out when the climbers pay was dropping. It’s a shame. They seemed to have the work plan aligned with the way the work should be done. It still had all of the hardships it has today with the travel and hard labor but the workers were aligned and organized and paid well. Today we can’t seem to align larger climbing groups.
      I am open to all solutions. If we could form a group and align the workers I think it would be a step in the right direction. We just need to figure out the next steps.
      I appreciate the input.


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