Google is ready to roll out a high-speed fiber-optic network in Portland. In March, it reached a deal with PGE and Pacificorp to use their poles, and it requested a city land use permit to install its first 12-by-30-foot “fiber hut.” Will it employ local union members at a living wage and benefits in its estimated $300 million rollout?
Tracy Harness — chapter manager of the union-signatory contractors group Northwest Line Constructors, NECA — says at least five general contractors are submitting bids to manage the work: Henkels and McCoy, a union-signatory contractor that would employ IBEW members; Black and Veatch, and Kiewit, which sometimes employ union subcontractors; and Dycomm and Ericsson, which are not known to employ union labor.
In Kansas City, the first city to install Google fiber, the job has been done all-union, handled by union-signatory Parr Electric. IBEW Local 53 Business Manager Stephen White says that has meant full-time work for about 150 members since 2012 — laying line and setting and changing out as many as 9,000 poles.
Travis Eri, business manager of Portland-based IBEW Local 125, is seeking to meet with Google managers to pitch the value of using the skilled union linemen who do pole work for PGE and PacifiCorp. It’s also possible the work could go to members of IBEW Local 89 or 659, locals that represent telecom specialists.
Elsewhere, Google has installed fiber neighborhood by neighborhood, offering Internet at 40 times the speed of broadband for $70 a month, cable television for an extra $60, and “Fiber Phone” service for $10 per month. If it goes forward in Portland, the work could start as early as this summer.