Lincolnton AT&T workers joined the strike against the telecommunications company this weekend, joining thousands of other AT&T workers across the Southeast.
Strikers at the Lincolnton locations told L Town Radio that they had been out there since midnight on August 24 and would remain out there until the company came to the bargaining table to start negotiations for their labor.
Two key events happened to prompt the strike in the southeastern part of the nation:
1. Employees in Florida were suspended for wearing Communication Workers of America union apparel while on the job
2. AT&T changed its bargaining process this quarter, disrupting a long-time process for negotiating workers’ demands.
Mike Dolan, who is the Union President for CWA 3603 serving the Charlotte area, has been with AT&T for 19 years. He currently works as a facility technician. “We want fair negotiations. AT&T has been bargaining for several months now, and a couple weeks ago, they told the bargaining team that they didn’t have the authority to make the decisions on a proposal. That violates the National Labor Relations Act,” he said.
Section 29 of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 reads:
Under section 8 (29 U.S.C.§ 158) the law defines a set of prohibited actions by employers, employees, and unions, known as an unfair labor practice. The first five unfair labor practices aimed at employers are in section 8(a). These are,
- (a)(1) “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7”. This includes freedom of association, mutual aid or protection, self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively for wages and working conditions through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other protected concerted activities with or without a union.
- (a)(2) “to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it.”
- (a)(3) “by discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization”
- (a)(4) discriminating against employees who file charges or testify.
- (a)(5) refusing to bargain collectively with the representative of the employer’s employees.
From there, the district filed an unfair labor practice and declared a strike. Dolan hopes the strike will be successful in getting decision-makers to the table in Atlanta for bargaining. “We weren’t getting anywhere in negotiations because the people at the bargaining table were not decision-makers,” he said. “We were just going around in circles because they were unable to make the decisions.”
AT&T’s official statement regarding the strike read: “A strike is in no one’s best interest. We remain ready to sit down with union leaders to negotiate a new, improved contract for our employees. Our bargaining team is negotiating this contract with CWA leaders in the same way we have successfully done with other CWA contracts over the years. We listen, engage in substantive discussions, and share proposals back and forth until we reach an agreement. That’s why we’re surprised and disappointed that union leaders would call for a strike at this point in the negotiations, particularly when we’re offering terms that would help our employees – some of whom average from $121,000 to $134,000 in total compensation – be even better off. We have offered the union terms that are consistent with what other CWA-represented employees have approved in recent contract negotiations; the company has reached 20 fair agreements since 2017, covering more than 89,000 employees. The Southeast contract covers fewer than 8 percent of our employees. We’re prepared for a strike and will continue working hard to serve our customers.”
In response to the statement, Dolan said: “I think they like to skew the truth a whole lot to make them seem nice.” And regarding the pay, they are claiming technicians make? “That’s using some kind of skewed math, where they count every kind of benefit that you get,” he said. “Like that’s what you get in your pocket.”
What happens if AT&T comes to the table?
Workers hope to fight for better wages for their labor, focusing on the aspect that many workers are forced to work overtime, going into more than 50 hours a week. “It’s routine that we are [working forced overtime],” Dolan said.
Their health benefits aren’t the greatest, either, according to the Charlotte Union President. “It’s not the monthly cost that gets you,” Dolan said. “It’s the meeting the out-of-pocket. It’s an 80/20 plan until you meet the deductible. So every time my son coughs, I know if I take him to the doctor, it’ll be like a $230 visit.”
So how long will they be striking?
Basically, until AT&T comes to the bargaining table equipped to negotiate appropriately. “Hopefully we’ll be off strike sooner rather than later, but we’re willing to be on strike for as long as it takes,” Dolan said. “AT&T is coming off of one of their most profitable quarters ever. They’ve received billions of dollars in tax cuts, and all we’re trying to do is get a fair contract,” Dolan concluded.
Matthew “MATT MAN” Burton studied Radio / Digital Media Journalism at Carolina School of Broadcasting and is the Station General Manager / On Air Host of L Town Radio. Matt also is the Host of the Nationally Syndicated Afternoon Show, “The Drive Home with Matt Burton” and “On Air With Matt Burton” on L Town Radio and iHeart Radio channels. To email Matt with a story idea or news tip email at MattBurton@ltownradio.com