Hundreds of AT&T workers who are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Friday rallied outside the telecommunications giant’s annual shareholders meeting in Dallas, calling on the company to “negotiate a fair contract that keeps family-supporting jobs in their communities.”
Some 14,000 AT&T workers remain on the job as contract negotiations continue between the company and the CWA. Earlier this month, the CWA authorized a potential strike against AT&T 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. Their contracts expired this month.
After workers marched and chanted about offshoring and outsourcing, CWA vice presidents spoke about AT&T’s “continued role in hollowing out the middle class and the need for workers to know that when they go to work, at the end of the day they’ll still have a job.”
“AT&T is breaking its promise to workers, customers and communities across the country,” said Linda Hinton, CWA District 4 vice president. “The company pledged to invest in U.S. workers if the tax bill passed, but they’ve done just the opposite. Companies like AT&T must renew their commitment to working people and the towns that depend on these jobs.”
“What’s most important is we’re all family, whether you’re a union member or not,” said Marty Richter, AT&T spokesman. He added that AT&T is “proud to be a union-friendly company providing more good-paying, full-time U.S. union jobs than any company in America.”
“Like any family we have our disagreements, but we’ll continue to sort those out,” he said. “In fact, we’ve reached five fair labor agreements last year and early this year covering nearly 70,000 of our employees. It’s important to remember that our union members have great jobs, and some of those affected by the current bargaining make over $143,000 a year in wages and benefits. We’re not proposing to reduce anyone’s pay or take away their benefits, and we’re confident employees will (be) better off financially when we reach new agreements.”
Earlier this week, the CWA released a report blasting AT&T for allegedly eliminating “thousands of jobs, closing call centers and shifting customer service and network maintenance to low-wage contractors, including overseas vendors.” It noted that while AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson once “boasted that every $1 billion in tax savings will create about 7,000 good jobs for the middle class,” the company announced more than 1,500 layoffs just days after President Trump’s tax bill became law.
As for ongoing contract negotiations, Richter said AT&T is “meeting regularly with the union and committed to reaching fair agreements, and we’re confident we will.”
“But preparing for contingencies is all part of what we do for customers,” he said. “The two wireline contracts we’re currently bargaining (Midwest and Legacy T) affect about 5 percent of our employees. They don’t affect employees in our mobility (wireless) business.”