AT&T workers have begun a three-day strike, accusing the company of failing to make fair proposals during contract negotiations. It is the largest strike in the US since 40,000 Verizon workers walked out last year.
On Friday, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) announced that roughly 38,000 AT&T wireless, wireline and DirecTV workers had walked off the job after AT&T failed to “present serious proposals that invest in good jobs with a future.”
“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, according to a statement. “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.”
On Wednesday, the CWA issued an ultimatum that wireless workers in 36 states and Washington, DC would go on strike if a deal could not be reached.
The workers were joined by more than 15,000 wireline workers, in California, Connecticut and Nevada, as well as around 2,000 DirecTV technicians across California and Nevada, who staged a one-day grievance strike in March. Those 17,000 workers have been working without a contract for more than a year.
Contract negotiations have been ongoing since February when an agreement was reached that allowed the union to strike at any time.
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said the company was offering wage and pension increases and claims that workers are well paid by industry standards, earning $68,000 in annual pay and benefits, twice the salary for retail workers, according to the New York Times.
"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 ... will be better off financially," AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Reuters.
As a part of the contract negotiations, the workers are demanding wage increases, affordable healthcare, a fair scheduling policy and job security from outsourcing.
The union cites a recent report that found 12,000 employees, or about 30 percent of the employees across all business divisions, have had their jobs outsourced since 2011. The report claims that the company’s widespread outsourcing has contributed to an overall decrease in wages across the company.
“Our fight for a fair contract is about more than just my co-workers and me – it’s about fighting a system that’s been rigged against us and way too many others for far too long,” said Mark Bautista, an AT&T wireline worker from El Sobrante, California, according to the statement. “On the picket lines today, I’ll be chanting, ‘No Contract, No Peace,’ until I lose my voice.”
CWA states that the workers will return to their jobs on Monday, but said they are willing to go on an open-ended strike if it “becomes necessary.”