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Expiring AT&T Union Contract Threatens Strike of 14,000

Strike

The union representing more than 14,000 AT&T workers in the Midwest has opened up the possibility of a strike.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has authorized a potential strike against the telecommunications giant for employees in the Midwest — Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois. Technology workers across the country belonging to the CWA’s “Legacy T” bargaining group might also strike. The contract for both groups will expire on Saturday.

CWA's Lisa Bolton

CWA’s Lisa Bolton

Lisa Bolton, vice president of telecommunications and technologies for CWA, said on Tuesday that Legacy T union members are willing to take this drastic step in order to get a better contract. She criticized the outsourcing of jobs, which has been a common gripe for the union. The CWA filed a lawsuit earlier this year accusing of AT&T subcontracting the jobs of laid-off employees.

“AT&T must stop farming out our work to the lowest bidder. After the tax bill passed, [CEO Randall] Stephenson promised the company would create 7,000 good, skilled, high-wage jobs. But at our bargaining tables, management demands second-tier jobs with second-tier wages and second-tier benefits. It is time for AT&T to live up to Stephenson’s promises,” Bolton said.

AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Channel Partners that strike votes are common in this type of negotiation. So don’t assume there will be picketers come the weekend.

“We’re committed to reaching fair agreements in our current bargaining with the CWA that will allow us to continue to provide solid union-represented careers with excellent wages and benefits,” Richter said. “We’re currently bargaining two wireline contracts (Midwest and Legacy T) that cover about 5 percent of our employees.”

Linda Hinton, vice president of CWA District 4, said AT&T’s chief executive promised “thousands of new jobs” as a result of a successfully passed tax law.

“CWA members are prepared to do whatever it takes to get a fair contract at AT&T Midwest that prioritizes job security, health care and retirement,” Hinton said.

Life, death, taxes and AT&T-CWA contract disputes are a few of the true certainties in life. The two parties approved their massive “Orange” contract in January. The CWA also ratified a new “Black” contract for Southeast AT&T Mobility workers last month.

“We have a good relationship with our unions and a long history of bargaining — including five fair contracts we reached, and CWA members voted to ratify, last year and early this year. Those contracts cover nearly 70,000 of our union-represented employees. Each includes annual wage increases and solid benefits, and we expect those covered to be better off financially,” Richter said.

CWA spent much of March focusing its ire on Frontier Communiations. Some 1,400 workers went on strike for three weeks before getting a new contract.

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