The Communications Workers of America (CWA) over the weekend struck a new tentative contract agreement with AT&T covering more than 8,000 workers.
The deal comes after 98% of the covered union members voted in favor last week to authorize a strike if necessary, as negotiations for a new agreement continued. A strike vote doesn’t necessarily mean a strike is imminent, and for AT&T it’s a routine step during contract negotiations.
Originally set to expire Friday, Feb. 21, CWA and AT&T had agreed to extend the current contract until midnight Feb. 22, before reaching the new agreement.
The new four-year contract covers technicians, call center customer support workers and employees at AT&T’s retail stores in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.
Union members must still vote to ratify it once the information is reviewed, and details of the proposed agreement have been provided to local union leadership, according to CWA.
CWA said the proposed contract allows for pay raises and affordable healthcare, as well as commitments that a share of AT&T Mobility customer calls will continue to be handled by union members located in the Southwest.
"I am proud of our CWA bargaining team for negotiating a strong contract that protects good, family-supporting jobs in the Southwest,” said CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, in a statement. "CWA members at AT&T Southwest Mobility proved that they were willing to fight for their jobs, affordable healthcare and better wages by overwhelmingly voting to strike if necessary. That, along with their months of workplace mobilization activities, pushed the company to reach this agreement in a timely fashion."
Bargaining for the new deal started February 4, and although not always looming, large-scale strikes have happened before.
Last summer 20,000 CWA members at AT&T Southeast went on strike after their contract expired. In 2017, nearly 40,000 AT&T employees walked off the job in a three-day strike after negotiations with CWA hit an impasse.
The union has ramped up its vocal concern over jobs since AT&T was targeted by activist investor Elliot Management last year, which CWA says is forcing the company to eliminate or outsource jobs and divest critical assets with an out-sized focus on increasing value for a small number of shareholders.