AT&T technicians in nine states across the Southeast were set to go on strike at 11 p.m. Friday over what union members are calling unfair labor practices, a representative with a local union said.
The Communications Workers of America announced the strike on Thursday over a breakdown in labor negotiations between its members and the telecommunications giant.
It’s unclear how the strike would affect local service.
Tony Clements, an AT&T wire technician who is president of the Southwest Mississippi-based CWA No. 2513, said the company will be in a lurch for technicians during the strike.
A company representative told the Miami Herald in an article published Friday, however, that AT&T is prepared for the strike in South Florida and has taken steps to minimize disruptions and outages. There was no mention of whether that included hiring contract workers in the meantime.
“I don’t feel like there’s anybody that can do the job we can do,” he said.
Clements said local workers would be picketing outside of AT&T offices in McComb, Brookhaven and Natchez starting at 8 a.m. today.
“We do not know how long we will be on strike,” Clements said. “We are in bargaining right now, but this is not what we call an economic strike where it’s regarding bargaining. This one is unfair labor.”
An AT&T spokesman said Friday afternoon that the company is “baffled” by the prolonged disagreement leading to the strike.
“A strike would be in no one’s best interest. We’re baffled as to why union leadership would call one 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,” spokesman Jim Kimberly said. “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.
“We’re prepared for a strike and in the event of a work stoppage, we will continue working hard to serve our customers.”
Union members are upset that AT&T wants to eliminate a council between the union and the company “where employee’s concerns can be addressed with the company’s leadership,” according to a statement by the union. Clements said employees are being treated unfairly for their union membership. and some have been for wearing CWA “memorabilia.”
“AT&T has suspended employees and threatened others with discipline for associating in protected, concerted activities just showing their unity,” he said.
CWA posted the new terms to which AT&T is seeking workers to agree.
The company has agreed to drop its requirement for advance notice for employees to take one guaranteed day off per year and to give a week’s notice of layoffs involving technicians in the future.
• The expansion of the scope of work for wire technicians without a pay increase.
• The use of subcontractors for construction work instead of union members.
• The ability to lay off employees “with no regard for seniority.”
• The elimination of termination payments for employees with permanent medical restrictions.
• The introduction of a “mandatory stand by program,” which would require employees to report to work at any time.
• The elimination and reclassification of technician jobs.
• The reduction of paid time off for illness.
The union represents technicians and employees at AT&T stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Clements said the strike only involved technicians.