More than 20,000 AT&T employees are striking, the Communication Workers of America union (CWA) announced over the weekend. The strike stretches across nine states in the southeast.
CWA says AT&T is "bargaining in bad faith" and that it has “unfair labor practices.” AT&T sent to the bargaining table people who "do not have the real authority to make proposals or to reach an agreement" in addition to "changing our agreement about how we meet and bargain," the union said in a blog post.
CWA's bargaining team has been fighting for the past few months to renegotiate the AT&T employee contract to share the company's record-breaking profits. In 2018, AT&T promised to use the windfall from the Republicans’ corporate tax cut to "invest an additional $1 billion” to create “7,000 good-paying jobs for American workers." The December tax cuts helped AT&T achieve a $19 billion profit in the fourth quarter and $3 billion in annual tax savings. But AT&T has had layoffs, cutting 23,000 jobs.
“If you were to visit any work center or call center across District 3, you would discover that your employees, our members, are not treated with the respect they have earned and deserve,” CWA Vice President of District 3 Richard Honeycutt said as he opened contract negotiations with AT&T Southeast in late June. "As far as mutual responsibility, this has unfortunately become a one-way street."
After AT&T failed to meet CWA’s needs for a new contract, the collective bargaining agreements covering employees at AT&T's Southeast, Utility Operations, and Southeast Billing units expired on August 3rd. CWA elected to extend them for a week hoping progress would be made, but negotiations stalled once again. Honeycutt released a statement on August 10th revealing that CWA members "by a 95 percent vote, have overwhelmingly authorized CWA to call a strike if a fair contract can't be reached."
After months of negotiations where AT&T has responded to proposals with “the company has no interest” and sent people without the authority to negotiate to a negotiation, CWA members authorized a strike on August 24th.
AT&T and CWA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.