Roughly 40,000 AT&T wireless and wireline workers said they’ll stage a three-day strike if the carrier doesn’t offer a “fair proposal” by Friday afternoon.
Members of the Communications Workers of America issued a deadline of 3 p.m. ET tomorrow for AT&T to present what they deem “serious proposals” to avoid a walkout over the weekend. The strike would include 21,000 AT&T Mobility workers and would mark the first time the carrier’s wireless employees held a strike.
The CWA threatened the move could disrupt “a large number of retail stores” across the United States over the weekend.
“The clock is ticking for AT&T to make good on their promise to preserve family-supporting jobs for more than 40,000 workers,” said Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1, in a prepared statement. "We have made every effort to bargain in good faith with AT&T, but have only been met with delays and excuses. Now, AT&T is facing the possibility of closed stores for the first time ever.”
AT&T representative Marty Richter said the operator is 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,” he 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 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.