The workers went on strike this weekend, weeks after the contract expired on Aug. 3.The CWA has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against AT&T for “not bargaining in good faith and not sending representatives to the bargaining table with the authority to make decisions.”
“We entered these negotiations prepared to bargain in good faith with AT&T to address our members’ concerns and to work together to find solutions,” said Richard Honeycutt, CWA District 3 vice president. “Our talks have stalled because it has become clear that AT&T has not sent negotiators who have the power to make decisions so we can move forward toward a new contract.”
The strike involves technicians, customer service representatives and others who install, maintain and support AT&T’s residential and business wireline telecommunications network in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Last month, the workers voted to authorize a strike if necessary.
U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders rallied with strikers Sunday in Louisville, Kentucky, telling workers “what you’re doing is what needs to take place all over this country. Working people need to stand up and tell corporate America enough is enough.”
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter tells Channel Partners a strike is in “no one’s best interest.”
“We remain ready to sit down with union leaders to negotiate a new, improved contract for our employees,” he said. “We strongly disagree with the union’s claims of unfair labor practices. Our bargaining team is negotiating this contract with CWA leaders in the same way we have successfully done with dozens of other CWA contracts over the years. We listen, engage in substantive discussions and share proposals back and forth until we reach agreement. That’s why we’re surprised and disappointed that union leaders would call for a strike at this point in the negotiations, particularly when we’re offering terms that would help our employees – some of whom average from $121,000 to $134,000 in total compensation – be even better off.”
The CWA also said additional unfair labor practice charges have been filed against AT&T in Florida for “illegally disciplining members for wearing union memorabilia and for participating in activities” that are protected under the National Labor Relations Act. CWA members in South Florida initiated a strike on August 22.
Richter said AT&T is prepared for the strike and will continue “working hard to serve our customers.” He also said the Southeast contract covers less than 8 percent of the company’s employees.