It is expected that another 21,000 workers at AT&T will authorize a strike in votes this week. This strike is intended to be a show of seriousness at the start of negotiations over a recently made contract. It is reported that the current contract that covers wireless retail, technical, and call center workers in 36 states will expire on February 11, 2017.
This expected vote follows a similar move by 17,000 AT&T employees in the traditional wired phone business of AT&T in California and Nevada. These employees were working without a contract since the month of April. “AT&T is underestimating their workers’ anger, frustration, and commitment to winning a fair contract,” said Dennis Trainer, who is the vice president for District 1 of the AT&T workers’ union, under the Communications Workers of America.
However, despite of the strike authorization vote, which is not an uncommon bargaining tactic, AT&T said that they remain committed to find common ground. AT&T had a long history of labor peace with their employees and their main union, the Communications Workers of America. Last strike in AT&T was before five years and it lasted only two days, whereas about 40,000 workers in Verizon went out on strike for seven weeks last year.
“A strike vote is not an unexpected step in negotiations of this sort and is often a part of the process,” an AT&T representative said. “We’re continuing to bargain with the union and we’re committed to reaching a fair agreement that will allow us to continue to provide solid union-represented careers with excellent wages and benefits.”
AT&T proposed removing the pension benefits for the fresh recruits, decreasing the number of sick days, and paying one third of the health care insurance premium cost, but they declined to comment on their specific proposals. However, one of the officials said that they are not seeking to take away any benefits or cut employee pay.
Like the Verizon employees, who went out on strike, AT&T workers also highlighted the outsourcing of call center jobs outside the country. Employees of Verizon said that the carrier has moved 8,000 call center jobs since 2011 to different countries like Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Philippines. Halting the offshore outsourcing of call center jobs was also the prime point of a letter from seven Democratic senators to President Trump.