A number of AT&T stores were forced to close their doors to consumers this weekend after nearly 40,000 union employees walked off the job for a three-day strike on Friday afternoon.
The protest drew participants from across 36 states representing four different union contracts – including wireless workers across the country; wireline workers in California, Nevada, and Connecticut; and DirecTV technicians in California and Nevada – and came after months of failed contract negotiations with the carrier, union representatives said. Communication Workers of America (CWA), the union representing the striking workers, said it was the first time AT&T Mobility employees went on strike.
The protest followed a one-day walk off of 17,000 AT&T customer service workers and technicians in California and Nevada in March.
As a result of the strike this weekend, CWA reported retail locations in Chicago, Columbus, East Brunswick and Oakhurst, N.J., Rensselaer, N.Y., Bangor, Maine, Boardman, Ohio, and downtown New York City were closed. Additionally, the union said all AT&T stores in Montana except one were shuttered over the weekend.
The strike drew support from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who on Twitter said he stood “in solidarity” with the workers. “They deserve a fair contract that puts people ahead of corporate profits,” he added. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant also turned out to support the strike, joining picket lines in their respective states.
AT&T workers were back at their posts – and the bargaining table – on Monday, but said the strike should serve as a warning to AT&T that they’re willing to “do what they have to do” to secure a fair contract. If an open-ended strike becomes necessary, then so be it, union reps said.
“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,” Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1, commented. “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.”
CWA indicated the AT&T workers are seeking wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare, and a fair scheduling policy. AT&T, the union claims, has the means to provide all those things for workers.
AT&T recently locked down a new contract covering 20,000 landline employees in the Southwest, and a carrier spokesman indicated AT&T has reached “fair agreements” with 28 other CWA and IBEW bargaining units since the beginning of 2015. Those contracts, the rep said, cover nearly 123,000 employees.
AT&T’s spokesman has previously said the carrier is “committed to providing great benefits.”
AT&T is likely hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s Verizon strike, in which 40,000 union workers walked off the job and stayed on strike for 49 days. That protest was resolved only when the U.S. Labor Secretary intervened to bring both parties back to the bargaining table. The seven-week strike impacted Verizon’s second quarter earnings, dragging down total operating revenue and earnings per share.