With just two days until their contracts expire, AT&T workers across the country are mobilizing to close ranks around their bargaining teams.
On last night's national AT&T call, CWA Vice Presidents Chris Shelton, Ralph Maly, Seth Rosen and Jim Weitkamp talked about the status of bargaining in their districts and answered questions about health care, AT&T demands on sick leave and other issues.
Listen to a recording of the call at www.cwaatatt.com.
Shelton said that AT&T can't be allowed to "erase the bargaining of the past 50 years in the next five minutes" and that many of the company's demands make it impossible for workers to balance work and family responsibilities. Maly condemned AT&T's outsourcing and offshoring of jobs and noted that the pace of bargaining was far behind the 2009 negotiations. Yet, Weitkamp told AT&T members to keep up the pressure on the company as bargaining goes down to the wire.
Rosen summed up the goals of all four negotiations: "We have a very clear common goal that when it is all added up — wages, benefits, the complete package — that every single member, from the lowest paid to the highest, will be better off at the end of the contract than he or she was at the beginning."
CWA President Larry Cohen tied the fight for fair contracts at AT&T to every campaign by working people for economic justice and a voice on the job
Reports from the field covered a roundup of mobilization.
"This is a battle," said Tonya Hodges of CWA Local 1298, who is a mobilization coordinator and also chairs the Yellow Pages bargaining team. "We'll fight until we're bloody at the bargaining table, but if workers aren't doing things in the field to show the company their support, none of it matters."
On Saturday, there will be candlelight vigils, informational pickets, rallies and union hall open houses scheduled throughout the districts.
In District 1, members will be rallying Saturday on the New Haven Green in Connecticut for good middle class jobs along with labor organizations from New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. District 4 is hosting a hunt for a fair contract at a huge Easter egg hunt for families in Indianapolis. Telecommunications and Technologies members are holding rallies and public demonstrations from New Jersey to Colorado and are building coalitions in every location, reported Shari Wojtowicz of Local 7250, and CWAers in northern and southern California are holding big rallies today.
Jane Phillips of Local 4900 said CWAers in District 4 have "ramped up mobilization to a whole 'nother level. For the past three weeks, our inside folks have been doing stand-ups nearly every day. Technicians are honking off the company, blaring their car horns as they drive in and out of the office."
"Things are getting a little scary around here as we get hairy," said Louie Rocha of CWA Local 9423 as he talked about D9 members' protests of the company's appearance policy.
Last weekend, CWA authorized President Cohen to call strikes if fair contracts cannot be reached by midnight on April 7. An overwhelming majority of the voting AT&T members in District 1 (95 percent), District 4 (92 percent), District 9 (93 percent) and Legacy AT&T (93 percent) voted to approve the strike authorization.
At the District 6 meeting today, Cohen pointed out how AT&T was underestimating the solidarity of members across CWA and across the labor movement. In an article in today's Wall Street Journal, CWA members who work at call centers in Texas and Missouri told the reporter what happens to managers who are being trained as strike replacements.
At a call center in Arlington, Texas, trainees from management share a fourth-floor break room with the workers whose jobs they would be expected to fill, call-center worker and union official Paige Johnson told the WSJ. "We look through them," Johnson said. "We try to make it our business not to engage them in conversation."
Tensions run even higher at a call center in Lee's Summit, Mo., reported the Wall Street Journal. The large, windowless suite it occupies is surrounded by a "never-ending hallway," according to Sarah Harreus, a union representative who works there. "A lot of us have misdirected some of these scabs to the complete opposite door," she said.
District 6 members will be negotiating with AT&T Southwest next year.