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Cable installers' union push fits with U.S. telecom trend
By Beth Potter, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Monday, January 6, 2006

Six cable installers in Alamosa who decided to become union members to fight for a raise are part of a growing national trend.

Many non-union cable workers who install high-speed Internet and phone service question why they don't make as much as their unionized telephone colleagues who do the same thing, said Bresnan Communications lead cable technician Art Danforth.

Danforth and co-workers at Bresnan make $16 to $18 an hour, while similarly trained phone workers make $25 to $30, said Danforth, who joined the Communications Workers of America with five co-workers after almost slicing off his thumb in a work-related accident in August 2004.

"Our jobs are very comparable to the telephone people, and our working conditions are very comparable," Danforth said.  "We want to increase our wages and increase our voice."

Bresnan workers make "a very good wage" and get training to install new cable offerings such as high-speed Internet and phone service, said Maureen Huff, spokes woman for Bresnan, which operates in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah.

Fewer than 100 of Bresnan's approximately 900 workers are union members, Huff said.

Colorado phone installers and technicians for Denver-based Qwest are union members, a spokesman said.  Virtually all area cable workers, including those at EchoStar and DirecTV, are not.

Nationwide, about 24 percent of phone and cable workers are union, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The number of union cable workers may be increasing, said Elizabeth Ashack, a labor bureau economist, even though the number of telecom union members has been stagnant in recent years.

"Traditionally, they haven't made as much as the telephone guys, so now they're trying to organize," she said.  "It makes perfect sense.  There's an increased demand for those types of cable guys."

Staff writer Beth Potter can be reached at 303-820-1503 or bpotter@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_3479947