DALLAS—As AT&T investors and executives convened for the annual shareholders meeting in Dallas April 28, AT&T wireless workers announced they have issued the 72-hour notice to end their contract extension—making a strike more likely than ever before for 21,000 wireless workers across 36 states and DC. Starting May 1, CWA has the option to call a strike at any time.
“We have given AT&T every opportunity to show their commitment to finding common ground and a fair contract and, quite frankly, have been very patient about it. But time is running out for AT&T to stop undermining good jobs, quality customer service and its long-term success,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1. “AT&T thinks they can play by their own rules, but 21,000 wireless workers are ready to show them what happens when you bet against American workers. The pieces are all in place now, and we’ll strike if necessary, but the larger question still remains: will AT&T finally do right by their wireless workers?”
Since February 11 of this year, AT&T workers have worked under a contract extension subject to termination and held up their promise to bargain in good faith with the expectation that executives will come to the table with proposals that protect family-supporting American jobs. However, after months of bargaining, frustration is higher than ever as workers and corporate executives remain far apart on key issues at the bargaining table. The company has refused to invest in the company’s workforce, protect the basic promise of quality customer service, and end offshoring and outsourcing with a fair contract.
“We came to Dallas today to send a message to AT&T: we’re sick and tired of being taken advantage of and we’re ready to do something about it,” said Cheryce Chambers, a retail worker from the Bronx, New York. “Striking is never easy, but we mean it when we say we’ll do whatever it takes for a fair contract that keeps our jobs at home, provides for our families, and protects the promise to provide high-quality customer service.”
The 17,000 AT&T West wireline and DIRECTV workers have been working without a contract for more than a year, and workers have taken action against AT&T’s illegal and unfair labor practices. Last month, AT&T West workers walked off the job in a one-day strike. Workers at AT&T East and DIRECTV in California have also been bargaining for over a year and are working without a contract.
CWA members in California and Nevada have built strong support from state and local elected officials who are expressing their concerns to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson about the company’s failure to build out high-speed fiber internet service to lower-income communities and address problems with service in rural areas.
“AT&T has been dragging its feet for more than a year to negotiate a new contract that protects good jobs in California and Nevada. It’s time to stop the corporate games and start bargaining fairly with the workers who work hard every day to ensure its operations are running smoothly and effectively for all the communities it serves,” said CWA District 9 Vice President Tom Runnion.
Just days after Q1 earnings showed revenue falling short of expectations and continued loss in subscribers, more than a hundred workers protested outside of the annual meeting today to send a message to AT&T shareholders that the company’s practice of undermining its employees is putting the company’s long-term growth and market success at risk. Now, with the threat of a strike looming, AT&T could see tens of thousands of retail, call center and tech workers walk off the job in 36 states.
Despite being the largest telecom company in the country and bringing in nearly $1 billion a month in profits, AT&T continues to overpromise and underdeliver to workers, customers and core capabilities including:
- Offshoring: AT&T has eliminated more than 12,000 US call center jobs and offshored thousands of other call center jobs to Mexico, the Philippines, India, the Dominican Republic and other countries. As AT&T workers call on the company to end its endless offshoring, Congress is taking increased action with new bipartisan legislation to stop companies from offshoring call center jobs.
- Outsourcing: More than 60% of AT&T’s branded retail stores are actually third-party dealers, known as “authorized retailers.” Customers regularly complain of deceptive sales practices, and to date, AT&T has failed to hold dealers accountable to quality customer service. AT&T workers are calling on corporate executives and shareholders to reverse this damaging trend before the impact on the business and their jobs becomes severe.
- Lack of investment in core business & infrastructure: AT&T is failing to provide high-speed broadband to communities across the country, particularly in California. A recent UC Berkeley report highlighted AT&T’s digital divide in California, leaving both rural and urban communities behind. A new report from UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society revealed 4 million California homes lack access to AT&T’s high-speed broadband. Mayors and other elected officials from California and Nevada have “slam[med] AT&T for slow internet, long phone outages.” Recent reports have found similar problems in Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods.
- Corporate accountability: In just the last couple months, over 12,000 callers couldn’t reach 911 due to AT&T outrages across the country. Over the last year, severe and regular phone outages across rural California prompted the CPUC to require phone companies to provide more real-time reporting on outages – changes pushed for by AT&T workers for years. Federal lawmakers are demanding accountability.
More than 38,000 wireless, wireline, and DIRECTV workers across the country are fighting together for good jobs and mobilizing across the country to show AT&T they’ll do whatever it takes to win a fair contract. Earlier this year, workers at AT&T Wireless and AT&T West voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if necessary and workers have held weekly practice picket lines across the country to prepare for a potential strike if there isn’t genuine progress at the bargaining table.
Pressure is mounting on AT&T from all angles. At the shareholders meeting, there are several proposals on the ballot to improve AT&T’s corporate governance, as the company spends millions on lobbying expenses, media placements, political donations, and lawsuits to block local competition and keep prices high for customers. CWA members will also vote against a $28.4 million compensation package for CEO Randall Stephenson, which they view as excessive, particularly while there is widespread instability in the company’s workforce.
Last year, Verizon workers were on strike for 49 days, finally winning a strong contract that created and protected good jobs. During the strike, Verizon’s approval ratings were at a three-year low while analysts and media regularly remarked on the reputational damage facing Verizon.