Around 21,000 AT&T wireless retail, call center, and technical workers across 36 states voted to approve the use of a strike if necessary just ahead of an approaching contract deadline with the carrier.
The Communications Workers of America last week said voting was underway, and on Thursday announced the results would enable union leaders to move ahead with a strike should negotiations with AT&T fail. CWA said an overwhelming majority – or 93 percent – of workers voted in favor of authorizing a strike.
The workers who voted are covered under a contract with the carrier that is set to expire on Feb. 11. They join a group of nearly 17,000 AT&T workers in California and Nevada – who have been working without a contract for almost a year – who voted late with a 95.6 percent majority late last year to authorize a strike.
CWA spokeswoman Candice Johnson last week indicated the vote was the first move in a several-step process to implement a strike. Next, a strike would have to be approved by CWA’s executive board, and from there the union’s president would set a strike date.
Workers are also reportedly planning to hold rallies in 35 cities across the country on Friday and Saturday as the contract deadline closes in. Rallies will be held in New York City, Boston, Washington, DC, Portland, Ore., Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, among other locations.
The moves are meant to put pressure on AT&T as CWA pushes for more favorable contract terms for employees. Last year, nearly 40,000 Verizon workers walked off the job after contract negotiations stalled, resulting in a 49-day strike that 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.
The union has alleged AT&T is attempting to cut sick time and force long-time workers to pay hundreds of dollars more for basic healthcare.
An AT&T spokesman, however, has said the carrier’s goal in contract negotiations is to “reach a fair agreement that will allow us to continue to provide our employees with solid union-represented careers with great wages and benefits.”