More than 20,000 AT&T employees across the Southeast walked off the job Saturday, according to Communications Workers of America, a union representing many of the company’s employees who work in call centers and maintain the company’s telecommunications network.
Members of CWA local unions across nine states, including Alabama, left their posts Saturday and took up places in front of AT&T facilities to protest negotiation tactics employed by the company. The strike includes AT&T employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
AT&T is negotiating contracts for its Southeast employees, but the union says the company sent people to negotiate with them who did not have the authority to make deals.
“We’re here for an unfair labor practices strike,” said Errol Minor, vice president of CWA Local 3902, the Birmingham chapter.
Minor led six other protesters in front of the AT&T building off of U.S. 280, across from the Summit. He said 3902 members were protesting in front of several AT&T locations across the Birmingham area, including downtown at 6th Avenue North, Pelham, Gardendale, and Pike Road. CWA has local chapters located across Alabama.
“AT&T has sent negotiators to the bargaining table that were not negotiating in good faith,” Minor said. “If we can get someone from [AT&T headquarters] Dallas, not just a figurehead, but someone who can bargain in good faith, then all of this will go away.”
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said the company was prepared for the strike but was surprised that it occurred.
“A strike is in no one’s best interest,” Richter said. “We remain ready to sit down with union leaders to listen to their concerns and work with them on negotiating a new, improved contract for our employees.
“We’re surprised and disappointed that union leaders would call 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.”
In north Alabama, CWA Local 3905 President David Betz said in a news release that the chapter’s 300 members affected by the strike would return to work when good-faith negotiations resumed.
“[O]ur demands are that AT&T get back to the bargaining table, with the appropriate negotiators,” Betz said. “It is not our intent to put any undue hardship on AT&T’s customers, however, the company must know their employees deserve fair negotiations.”
Richter said the company has offered competitive terms to the union.
“We have offered the union terms that are consistent with what other CWA-represented employees have approved in recent contract negotiations; the company has reached 20 fair agreements since 2017 covering more than 89,000 employees,” Richter said via email. “The Southeast contract covers fewer than 8 percent of our employees.
“We’re prepared for a strike and in the event of a work stoppage, we will continue working hard to serve our customers.”