AT&T was forced to close hundreds of stores across the country over the weekend as tens of thousands of workers staged a three-day strike.
Stores were closed in New York, Los Angeles, Denver and dozens of other cities as nearly 40,000 walked off the job, according to the Communications Workers of America. The union announced the strike Friday afternoon after threatening a work stoppage if the carrier didn’t come through with a “fair proposal.”
The move marked the first significant strike by AT&T’s wireless workers, although other employees were also involved.
“Today, nearly 40,000 wireless, wireline and DirecTV workers across the country are returning to work and CWA is looking forward to returning to the bargaining table with the expectation we see genuine proposals that protect good jobs and quality service from AT&T,” said Sarrah Nasser, an AT&T wireless call center representative, in a prepared statement. “We are organized—with the support of our families, neighbors, elected leaders and customers—and if AT&T doesn’t do what’s right, we’ll keep doing what we need to win.”
The employees said they planned to return to work this morning.
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said “the majority” of the carrier’s retail outlets remained open through the weekend. Richter also said the carrier is “committed to reaching fair agreements in these contracts.”
The union argued 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 alleged 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.