More than 1,000 AT&T workers go on strike in Wisconsin
The strikers, represented by the Communication Workers of America, include field service technicians and customer call center employees, according to the union.
They've charged that the company is trying to bargain directly with workers instead of engaging with the union's bargaining team. Their contract expired April 14.
"The company is bypassing the bargaining committee, which we feel is totally disrespectful," said George Walls, president of CWA Local 4603 in Milwaukee.
"It's inappropriate to put offers to our members without seeing all of the data," including benefits, insurance costs and job protections, said Betsy La Fontaine, vice president of Communications Workers of America Local 4621.
AT&T said it's unclear whether any customer services have been disrupted by the strike, now in its second day in Wisconsin. The company says the strike has not affected wireless phone service in the state.
“A walkout is in nobody’s best interest, and it’s unfortunate that the union chose to do that," said AT&T spokesman Jim Kimberly.
“This contract currently covers good-paying U.S. jobs averaging over $120,000 a year in pay and benefits, with some making over $200,000. After over 10 weeks of negotiations, we have presented a final offer to the union’s negotiating team at the bargaining table with a goal of bringing this process to a close and reaching a fair agreement for our employees," Kimberly said.
"We’re offering a generous package including annual wage increases, continuation of job security provisions that are virtually unheard of in the U.S., and comprehensive healthcare and retirement benefits. In addition, the offer includes a commitment to hire 1,000 people in the region. All employees covered by the offer would be better off."
CWA Director of Communications Beth Allen said local chapters across the Midwest were on strike Thursday. The decision to strike or not was made by each local, she said. ■