On Friday afternoon, thousands of AT&T employees walked off the job in protest of the company’s inability to come to an agreement on union contracts with its workforce. Wireless workers from 36 states (and DC) will take part in the strike, along with wireline workers from California, Nevada and Connecticut and DirecTV technicians in California and Nevada. If an agreement can’t be reached quickly, retail stores in several states will likely shut down this weekend as well.
“We will no longer stand by as AT&T hems and haws at the bargaining table, keeping its own workers from achieving the American Dream they once promised,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1. “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. 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.”
According to a press release we received this afternoon, AT&T workers are demanding wage increases, improved job security, affordable healthcare and a fair scheduling policy. AT&T employees claim that once the company changed its commission plan, they started taking home less money.
Another major point of contention for the workers is the outsourcing of labor. They argue that AT&T is cutting customer service jobs and sacrificing the quality to save money. 12,000 call center jobs in the US have been eliminated since 2011 as AT&T has chosen to instead contract with third-party vendors overseas that supply low-wage workers who aren’t subject to much weaker labor protections.
The press release states that the AT&T employees will return to work on Monday, but have “vowed to do what they have to do if AT&T violates their rights or an open-ended strike becomes necessary.”
UPDATE: AT&T provided us with the following statement in regards to the strike:
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.
We’re prepared, and we will continue working hard to serve our customers. This involves less than 14 percent of our employees.
What’s most important is we’re all family, whether you’re a union member or not. Like any family we have our disagreements but we’ll sort them out. We’ve reached 29 fair agreements since 2015 covering over 128,000 of our employees, and we’re confident we can do the same here.