21,000 AT&T Workers Authorize Strike, Blame Offshored Call Center Jobs

AT&T workers in 36 states have taken the next step toward a strike, citing the company’s outsourcing of jobs as a reason.

Call center, wireless retail and technical workers belonging to the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union voted 93 percent in favor of authorizing a strike against the telecommunications company. This does not mean they will hit the picket lines for certain, but it is one of the steps required in the process.

The contract between AT&T and CWA expires Saturday. It affects approximately 21,000 employees. We reported on Monday that the union’s demands include “wages, commissions, transfers, holidays, job openings, scheduling, call out and on-call pay, overtime and differential.”

But the union took a different tone on Friday, blasting the company’s record of sending call-center jobs to other countries, such as Mexico and the Philippines.

“Americans are fed up with giant corporations like AT&T that make record profits but ask workers to do more with less and choose to offshore and outsource jobs,” said Nicole Popis, an AT&T wireless call center worker, in a statement.

CWA said that in addition to outsourcing, AT&T has cut more than 8,000 call-center jobs.

“AT&T is underestimating the deep frustration wireless retail, call center and field workers are feeling right now with its decisions to squeeze workers and customers, especially as the company just reported more than $13 billion in annual profits, said Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1.

AT&T has said its goal in negotiations is to “provide employees with high quality, union-represented careers with wages and benefits that are among the best in the country.”

Workers have been demonstrating since the vote and plan to protest over the weekend.

Approximately 17,000 workers in Nevada and California have been without a contract since last year. They also authorized a strike, but have yet to start one. AT&T said it plans to begin negotiating with CWA for a Southwestern wireline contract. That deal expires April 8.

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