By Rebecca Band
Photos by John Storey
For IBEW Local 1245 members working at Frontier Communications in Elk Grove, every day is a little bit different. On any given day, these telecommunications workers might be restoring long-distance phone services, running fiber-optic cables, installing a new DSL line or trouble-shooting connectivity issues—whatever it takes to keep their suburban customers connected.
The Elk Grove Central office provides telephone, internet and data services for residential and business customers in the Sacramento suburbs and nearby rural areas, including Elk Grove, South Sacramento, Rio Vista, Isleton, Walnut Grove, Cortland, Clarksburg, Wilton and the Delta.
“We play a vital role in every form of communication in the industry from voicemail, to dial tone, to high-speed internet, VoIP and VLAN,” said Walter Carmier, a Central Office Transmission Technician and 16-year member of Local 1245. “We install, monitor and maintain power plants and switching-transport. We also inspect and manage the installation of our network projects. I like that we are always on the cutting edge of communication, and connecting people with technology.”
Like many of his fellow workers at Frontier, Carmier is proud of his longevity with the company; he’s worked here longer than he’s worked at any other business. But Carmier did have one other lengthy employment stint — as a member of the United States Army Signal Corps, where he served as an active duty solider from 1982-1997, and a Reservist from 1997-2003.
Carmier worked at non-union jobs between his time in the military and when he came on board at Frontier, and says his favorite part of working at Frontier is the fact that it comes with a union card. He appreciates the “military-style brotherhood” that the union provides, as well as the critical protections and benefits he and his colleagues have at work.
“Nonunion jobs are like living in the wild wild west,” said Carmier.
Emphasis on Safety
Frontier Transmission Technician Dan Boschee also comes from a military background. While serving in the US Air Force, Boschee travelled across the western United States and England, installing communications equipment on Air Forces bases. He came to Citizen Utilities (now Frontier) shortly after leaving the military 34 years ago, and has been with the company ever since.
Boschee explains what’s kept him at Frontier for more than three decades: “The primary thing I like [about this job] is the emphasis on safety. I am currently the chairman of the Frontier safety committee in Elk Grove and I am on the union’s safety committee,” said Boschee. “I am also a member of the National Safety Council and chairman of the IBEW Caucus’s Utilities Division, representing a variety of crafts from maritime and the communications industries.”
Mindy Perez has been with Frontier for 21 years, and enjoys working in the ever-changing and challenging telecom industry.
“Technology changes al lot at any given time,” said Perez. “[This work] keeps me grounded and more educated.”
Perez is known as a “cut writer,” which means she manages high speed internet service orders and data, and builds new cable and maintenance records for high-speed internet office equipment. She values her job and her co-workers, and appreciates the pay, benefits and protections that the union provides.
“I worked retail and for five years and did not have the support of a union,” said Perez, noting that the best thing about the union is “the assistance and the information you receive when you’re unsure of the labor laws.”
The Evolution of Frontier
Frontier is the sixth largest local exchange carrier in the United States, providing phone, internet and television services to small towns, suburbs and rural areas in 29 states. IBEW 1245 has represented these telecom workers for nearly half a century, well before the company was known as Frontier.
Back when the company first became union, it was known as Citizens Utilities, an identity it held for many decades. In May of 2000, the company name changed slightly to Citizens Communications, and then in the summer of 2008, the name changed once again, to Frontier Communications. In 2009, Frontier acquired Verizon’s 4.8 million landlines in 14 states, including several of Verizon’s exchanges in California.
IBEW local 1245 currently represents workers in several different classifications at Frontier in Elk Grove.
- The Facility Assigners (also known as Cut Writers) assign circuits and feeds in the Frontier exchanges, maintaining balance on the overall system to meet and match the needs of the required services to the facilities available.
- The Sales and Service Technicians include two groups of workers — Installation and Repair Technicians and Complex Technicians. The I&R Techs work predominantly on residential service, house lines and internet service. The Complex Techs can also perform the I&R duties but are mostly assigned larger distribution cable repairs, installing customer end circuits and phone systems, as well as splicing duties and business tickets and orders. Those who have splicing skills handle cable repairs, capital job splicing, and cross function through complex and I&R work.
- The Transmission Technicians (also known as Central Office Technicians) work predominantly out of the central office locations that house all the copper, fiber cabling and server equipment necessary to distribute phone service internet service to their customers.