AT&T on Tuesday announced that wireline workers represented by the Communications Workers of America have gone on strike.
Employees hit the picket lines four months after contracts expired covering roughly 20,000 employees in Connecticut, California and Nevada.
About 17,000 workers in California are on strike while another roughly 800 to 1,000 workers in Nevada have stopped working, CWA spokeswoman Libby Sayre said. Another spokesperson for the union said there was a separate strike in Connecticut.
The strike is planned to last a few days, Sayre told us, although that could change.
The union claims the strike was precipitated by AT&T's repeated violations of workers' rights. AT&T has demanded significiant concessions from workers on disability, healthcare, job security, pensions, scheduling and sick leave, according to the CWA.
Dallas-based AT&T said it been planning for more than two years to handle such a strike and that it had a contingency workforce in place. The workers on strike maintain copper and fiber networks, repair and install phone systems as well as AT&T's television service, and provide customer support and sales to the company's customers.
“AT&T is not proposing to reduce the wages of any employees in these contracts, or to take away their benefits," the company said. “AT&T’s goal through these negotiations has been to preserve high quality middle class careers with wages and health care benefits that are among the best in the country."
The AT&T West agreement covers about 17,000 wireline employees in California and Nevada while the East contract concerns roughly 3,000 workers in Connecticut.
The CWA has filed dozens of unfair labor practice charges against AT&T with the National Labor Relations Board. The government agency has issued a complaint against the telecommunications giant in response to two charges and is reviewing numerous other charges, according to the CWA.
Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman, said AT&T has been negotiating in good faith, as illustrated by a number of tentative agreements it has reached with the union in other regions.
For instance, AT&T today announced three tentative labor agreements with the CWA covering roughly 22,000 employees in the Southeast. The three-year pacts “include wages increases in each year and modest pension increases," AT&T said. The paperwork is being finalized for the agreements covering employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
"These employees [on strike] are very well compensated, and they will continue to be," Richter said. "The average AT&T network technician in these contracts makes $133,000 in wages and benefits, and the average AT&T call center representative makes $107,000. We’re not proposing to reduce the wages of any employee in these contracts, or to take away their benefits."