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Communications of America union members protest unfair working conditions

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Communications of America union members protest unfair working conditions

WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- Dozens of Communications Workers of America (CWA) union members protested against Frontier Communication Saturday.

CWA union members gathered alongside Frontier workers Saturday morning to protest against alleged claims of unfair treatment by their employees.

Tom Locke, a 12-year worker at Frontier and North Area Representative for CWA Local 4671 said, he hopes protests like these will make the company listen to the employees.

"Working in 20 below weather by yourself is a safety hazard," Locke said. "We are working in the road right of way, by ourselves if something happens to you and you're out by yourself, you are going to freeze to death."

Locke and his co-workers are protesting due to mandatory overtime, unsafe working conditions and what they call a hostile working environment. These are just a few of the allegations against Frontier.

"Even on a day to day with mandatory overtime an 8 hour day turned into a 10 (hour)" said CWA Local 4671 President Steve Kotel. "At the end of 10 hours, the managers are saying they can't go home."

Kotel is not an employee at Frontier but is the union President for workers in his jurisdiction.

"Our intention is to do things like this to bring these issues to a broader standpoint for this company," Kotel said.

Protestors said they have seen numerous employees leave the company or be fired, making them short-staffed. Leaving the employees left behind with extra work on their hands.

"We have been understaffed for quite a while just in the last year in the Marshfield work ground were down five people, possibly six," Locke said. "There is only one position open to be hired."

Locke said the combination of low staffing and mandatory overtime is making it hard to hold a work-life balance. Interrupting workers' plans with family, kids and more.

"Some people are separated and they only have visitation rights at a certain time, and they don't get to see their child for that week because they are being forced to work 10 hour days," Locke said.

Working overtime is not a new subject for Frontier employees, who say they are used to working more when severe storms or inclement weather comes through.

"It's a demanding job, we understand that we have to put in extra hours sometimes, most of the time it is an emergency situation, bad weather," Kotel said. "But recently its an understaffing problem, between termination and attrition, people leaving on their own free will they are not backfilling the jobs."

CWA meets with the company every three months for a work-life meeting known as bargaining, Kotel said. The meeting is used to discuss how to improve balance and air any grievances.

"We're going into bargaining and that's going to be very contentious because there are so many things that need to be fixed, there are so many issues," Kotel said. "Bargaining sometimes you're six months to a year into it before you get some kind of an outcome."

CWA and their employees are preparing for their next work-life meeting that will take place in March.

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