NATIONWIDE— AT&T workers who are members of Communications Workers of America (CWA) walked off the job today, protesting AT&T’s failure to present serious proposals that invest in good jobs with a future. During the three-day strike this weekend, a majority of AT&T wireless, wireline and DIRECTV workers fighting for their contracts are expected to be on strike.
The groups striking represent four different union contracts and include wireless workers in 36 states and DC; wireline workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut; and DIRECTV technicians in California and Nevada. This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, which could result in closed retail stores this weekend and may be the largest strike of retail workers at a national company is U.S. history.
“We will no longer stand by as AT&T hems and haws at the bargaining table, keeping its own workers from achieving the American Dream they once promised,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1. “Despite being the largest telecom company in the country with nearly $1 billion a month in profits and the CEO earning $28 million, AT&T continues to pinch its workers’ basic needs and stand in the way of high-quality service its customers pay good money for. This is a warning to AT&T: there’s only one way out of this now—a fair contract—and we’ll settle for nothing less.”
While the three-day strike may inconvenience customers in the short term, AT&T workers are committed to putting an end to unnecessary frustration and poor service because of AT&T’s lack of investment in its core business. AT&T workers will return to work on Monday and have vowed to do what they have to do if AT&T violates their rights or an open-ended strike becomes necessary.
“As a father, striking is not an easy decision for me. But to make sure I can give my kids the future they deserve, we must take a stand against any and all attempts to skimp on good jobs and financial security,” said Mark Bautista, an AT&T wireline worker from El Sobrante, California. “And our fight for a fair contract is about more than just my co-workers and me—it’s about fighting a system that’s been rigged against us and way too many others for far too long. On the picket lines today, I’ll be chanting ‘No Contract, No Peace,’ until I lose my voice.”
AT&T workers are demanding that AT&T commit to bargaining that addresses wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare, and a fair scheduling policy. Retail workers’ take home pay has plummeted in the last year after AT&T unilaterally changed its commission plan. Workers are also protesting AT&T’s pervasive outsourcing of jobs to low-wage contractors, which eliminates good jobs and hurts customer service. At a time when most Americans believe they are worse off financially than the generation before them, AT&T workers are taking a stand and making an example of the company.
“We’re walking off the job today because AT&T has every means available to support its core workforce and the customers who help make them $1 billion a month in profits, but chooses to undercut us at every turn,” said James Stiffey, an AT&T wireless worker from Pittsburgh. “As a retail worker, I know that my store and many others across the country could close and disrupt service, but our strike is about demanding conditions that allow us to provide better service for customers too. We are standing together to win a fair contract that protects customers, families and entire communities—and we’ll do whatever it takes to get it.”
As AT&T comes under fire for offshoring thousands of jobs, workers are rallying around new federal legislation that would penalize companies like AT&T who offshore call center jobs. Since 2011, AT&T has eliminated 12,000 call center jobs in the U.S., closing and downsizing call centers across the country. Rather than keeping those good-paying jobs here at home, AT&T has contracted with third party vendors operating in countries with low wages and weak labor protections.
A recent report from CWA shed new light on AT&T’s sprawling web of 38 third-party call centers in eight countries that are driving low wages and compromising quality service for millions of AT&T customers. AT&T workers and CWA representatives met with call center vendor employees in the Dominican Republic earlier this month to learn more about what has happened to the jobs AT&T has shipped overseas and the anti-union backlash facing Dominican workers who attempt to improve conditions.
At AT&T’s annual shareholder meeting at the end of April, AT&T wireless workers protested the company’s unfair bargaining and announced they had given the company 72-hours’ notice to end their contract extension. CWA currently has charges against AT&T Mobility pending with the National Labor Relations Board because the company is refusing to provide the union with information about several important issues, including the number of calls going to contractors and overseas. This information is necessary to negotiate basic job security for call center workers. The company has also refused to provide information related to vacation, sick days, training, job transfers and benefits.
In late March, AT&T wireline workers in California and Nevada, who have been working without a contract for over a year, went on strike to protest the company’s changing of working conditions in violation of federal law. The strike ended when the workers won an agreement with the company that it will no longer require employees to do work outside of their expertise and classification.
More than 2,300 DIRECTV technicians in California and Nevada and hundreds of workers at AT&T East who manage the 911 dispatch system for AT&T have been in negotiations for their first contract since last year. Also covered under the wireless workers’ contract are nearly 800 DIRECTV call center workers in three states and more than 600 CRICKET retail workers.
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