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Contracts covering nearly 100,000 AT&T workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) expired at midnight on Sunday. In a statement issued Sunday, union members will report to work "for now" as negotiations on a new contract continue.
Workers in the Southeast, whose contracts don't expire until August, have agreed to stop negotiations and come back in July.
The union will keep its option to strike "open," says the CWA. Both sides continue to talk, with the terms of the old contract still in effect with the exception of arbitration for grievances.
However, the union feels AT&T has shown "little willingness to move forward and reach settlements," with little progress made in the areas of health care, retirement security and employment security. Several CWA districts have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that AT&T has refused to provide information necessary to resolve many outstanding issues.
How long the two sides will stick with the status quo is uncertain. The union could choose to set a formal strike date, which would ratchet up the pressure on AT&T to make some concessions, but the two sides are far apart on many issues, with health care being the largest. AT&T says it spends $5.5 billion a year to subsidize health care for 1.2 million people, including workers, retirees, and dependents. The union points out that AT&T made $12.9 billion in profits last year, so finances aren't that bad.
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