AT&T workers in the telco’s Midwest and Legacy T regions represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) have voted “overwhelmingly” to authorize a strike if the two sides can’t reach an agreement when the contract expires.
The AT&T Midwest contract covers workers in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, while the Legacy T contract covers workers nationwide.
Linda Hinton, VP of CWA district 4, said in a release that the telco’s CEO Randall Stephenson should honor his promise to create more jobs following the passing of the tax reform bill.
“CWA members are prepared to do whatever it takes to get a fair contract at AT&T Midwest that prioritizes job security, healthcare, and retirement,” Hinton said. “It is time for AT&T to live up to Randall Stephenson’s promises to create thousands of new jobs in the U.S. if the Republican corporate tax bill passed. AT&T’s profits and tax windfalls must turn into jobs and employment security for CWA members.”
In December, Stephenson pledged to create 7,000 new jobs. However, a report at the time from The New York Post revealed that the service provider laid off over 700 cable installers.
An AT&T spokesman told FierceTelecom in an e-mail that it is committed to finding a mutually agreeable solution before any strike would occur.
“A strike vote is a common and not unexpected step in negotiations of this sort,” the AT&T spokesman said. “We’re continuing to bargain with the union and we’re confident that an agreement will be reached."
Negotiations for a new contract began on March 6.
Like earlier contract discussions, healthcare and job security were two top items of concern for CWA members.
CWA suggested to AT&T to minimize the use of contractors in all aspects of the business, especially when members are being surplussed across the country. The union said that its “members can take calls, engineer, install and maintain services and a much higher level than a non-employee who has no concern for either the customer or the company.”
On the healthcare front, CWA claims that it “had tried to work with AT&T to be creative in finding solutions, but a deaf ear was found.”
The past year has been a busy one for AT&T and the CWA unions. In August, AT&T West and the CWA voted to approve a four-year contract with the telco’s Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell subsidiaries, closing a chapter on what has been a challenging negotiation process.
The new contract covers 17,000 wireline and DirecTV employees in California and Nevada. The agreement was reached on July 14, after CWA-represented employees had narrowly failed to approve a prior tentative agreement that had been reached in June.
In all, AT&T has reached five fair contracts that the CWA members voted to ratify, last year and early this year.
AT&T said that “those contracts cover nearly 70,000 of our union-represented employees,” adding that each contract “includes annual wage increases and solid benefits, and we expect those covered to be better off financially."