**Update: Employees returned to their jobs on Monday. Their walkout was designed to spur contract talks. The carrier said it was forced to close hundreds of stores temporarily from coast to coast over the weekend as a result.**
AT&T wireless and wireline workers in 36 states left their jobs Friday afternoon.
The striking employees belong to the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and will be picketing for the entire weekend. It’s the first time wireless workers of the company have walked off work. The CWA says this may cause retail stores to close.
Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1, says AT&T failed to produce an agreeable bargain for the union. The CWA says take-home pay decreased for retail workers after AT&T changed its commission plan.
“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,” Trainor said. “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.”
Marty Richter, a spokesman for AT&T, told Channel Partners that the company offered the workers increases in wages and pensions and health care benefits. He compared the proposed deal to one that the CWA agreed to back in March.
“A strike is in no one’s best interest, and it’s baffling as to why union leadership would call one when we’re offering terms in which our employees in these contracts — some of whom average from $115,000 to $148,000 in total compensation — will be better off financially,” he said. “We’re prepared, and we will continue working hard to serve our customers. This involves less than 14 percent of our employees.”
The strike will go from Friday to Sunday.