AT&T wireless and wireline workers go through with 3-day strike

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AT&T union workers made good on their threat to stage a three-day walkout.

AT&T wireless and wireline workers followed through on their threat to hold a three-day strike over the weekend.

Roughly 40,000 AT&T wireless and wireline union workers earlier this week warned they’d stage the stoppage if the carrier didn’t offer a “fair proposal” by Friday afternoon. No such offer came through, the Communications Workers of America said, triggering the walkout.

“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, said Friday in a press release. “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.”

The union warned that the first-ever strike against AT&T wireless “could close many retail stores” over the weekend. Picket lines are planned at more than two dozen AT&T locations across the country.

The CWA didn't give it exact figures, although it said "a majority" of the 40,000 workers seeking new contracts are expected to participate in the strike. The workers plan to return to their jobs on Monday, the union said.

AT&T representative Marty Richter said on Thursday that the operator was continuing to negotiate with the union and said the strike threat is “baffling” given the terms of a proposed offer. The contracts at stake account for only 13% of the company’s employees, he added.

“We’re offering generous terms in these negotiations including annual wage and pension increases, as well as comprehensive healthcare benefits, similar to what other employees across the country have ratified in other contracts. We’re confident employees will be better off financially in their new contract,” Richter said. “We’re prepared for a possible strike. If it happens, we will continue working hard to serve our customers.”

The union argues that AT&T generates “nearly $1 billion a month in profits”—it posted a $3.56 billion first-quarter profit this year—and is “failing to invest in its core business and infrastructure” as it outsources and moves jobs offshore. The CWA alleges that AT&T has cut 12,000 call center jobs in the United States since 2011, opting instead to contract with third-party companies in other countries.

The CWA was involved in a 45-day strike last year by 40,000 Verizon wireline workers that ended in June. That stoppage slowed Verizon’s network investment slightly during the second quarter, according to analysts, and ended with agreements that a union representative described as “an incredible victory” for the workers. AT&T reportedly hasn’t suffered a significant work stoppage since a two-day walkout in 2012.