Five States Join AT&T Grievance Strike
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Five States Join AT&T Grievance Strike



Employees of AT&T walked out and went on strike Thursday after filing an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Out on strike are customer service specialists who do installation and repair, premise technicians who handle TV and internet, construction and office technicians, fleet mechanics and, in some locations, call center employees and salespeople.

The staffers from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, part of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), have been in contract talks with the telecommunications service provider since March. The contract covering workers at AT&T West, along with another 7,000 workers at AT&T Legacy T operations across the US, expired on April 14.

In the Milwaukee area, roughly 1,200 call center workers and technicians walked off the job at noon including workers at 26th St and W.Kilbourn Ave.

“The main thing we are looking for is job security.” says one of the union workers.

CWA striking worker Cyrus Caldwell says that AT&T continues to ship jobs overseas. The Communications Workers of America union has also accused AT&T of unfair labor practice.

The strike also includes workers at this office near Brookfield square which primarily services small businesses.

“The company is trying to burden directly with employees, and they know they cannot do that,” said participants.

George Walls, President of CWA 4603, says, “In Milwaukee here we have seen nothing but a steady loss of jobs for many, many years. And the contracting out of work or their offshoring call-center calls overseas. We are trying to keep jobs, not only in Milwaukee but throughout the Midwest.”

“That means that any customers that are calling for service, obviously it's going to be delayed, people that have problems whether you need a technician to come out, that's probably going to be delayed too,” said Walls.

In Appleton, AT&T workers in the Fox Valley and elsewhere went on strike Thursday as well.

Betsy LaFontaine, Vice President of CWA, Local 4621 and AT&T employee of 30 years, said the company had emailed all bargaining members four times. They told the bargaining team there was a final offer then quickly emailed members without giving the bargaining team time to review the details. LaFontaine says, "It's inappropriate to put offers to our members without seeing all the data. Our bargaining team has the right to evaluate that information and vet it thoroughly before we are told of that offer to be able to make a good decision on whether we should vote on it. Appropriate protocols and past traditions need to be upheld to preserve a rich history of mutual respect. The company broke that agreement."

In Oshkosh, about a dozen members of Local 4622, which covers Winnebago, Dodge, Fond Du Lac, Sheboygan and Portage counties, paced the sidewalk in pairs outside the AT&T building, carrying signs announcing their strike and “We demand affordable healthcare at AT&T.”

“The unions have had enough, and I have had enough,” said Robert Boelk, who is union president for Communication Workers of America Local 4622 and AT&T employee of 19 years.

In Mount Pleasant, approximately 60 employees who cover Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties are on strike. In the entire five-state district, all the approximately 14,000 employees in the union are striking, Local 4611 President Joshua Furlough said. A few dozen AT&T workers maintained a picket line Thursday in front of the local company office at 6215 Regency West Drive.

“There’s no work getting done today,” said a union steward who refused to give his last name.

CWA Local 4611 Vice President Joseph Briere said the NLRB complaint was filed within the last week by three different union locals. The last three-year contract with AT&T expired April 14. With that expiration, he said, “We lost the right to arbitrate any grievances; their word is the final word.”

This is considered a grievance strike, or unfair labor practice strike, Briere explained.

In response to the strike, AT&T issued a statement which says:

“A walkout is in nobody’s best interest, and it’s unfortunate that the union chose to do that.

“This contract currently covers good-paying U.S. jobs averaging over $120,000 a year in pay and benefits, with some making over $200,000. After over ten weeks of negotiations, we have presented a final offer to the union’s negotiating team at the bargaining table with a goal of bringing this process to a close and reaching a fair agreement for our employees. We’re offering a generous package including annual wage increases, continuation of job security provisions that are virtually unheard of in the U.S., and comprehensive health care and retirement benefits.

“In addition, the offer includes a commitment to hire 1,000 people in the region. All employees covered by the offer would be better off.”

Joseph Briere explains, “The company had sent its final offer to employees (via emails) — not the bargaining team. That’s what prompted this strike. Those emails encouraged employees to urge their representatives to take the company’s “final offer,” which contained an 11 percent pay increase over four years.”

“The bargaining team didn’t see the final offer,” he said. “… They backdoored us.”

Author: USA Really