About 20,000 AT&T employees, or 8% of the telecommunication giant’s workforce, walked off the job in nine southeastern states over the weekend, marking the most important strike in the industry in additional than two years.
The striking employees, primarily technicians and customer service representatives in AT&T’s traditional wired phone and Internet business, are seeking higher health care benefits and job security, with other requests, after their previous four-year contract end earlier this month.
The Communications Workers of America union that expresses the striker’s states AT&T shouldn’t be bargaining in good faith in discussions for a new contract that began in June. Richard Honeycutt said that their talks have stalled because it has become clear that AT&T has not sent negotiators who’ve got the power to make decisions so they can move forward towards a new contract.
The strikers work in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Workers in AT&T’s wireless business and different parts of the country are not involved.
AT&T mentioned its team is bargaining just because it has in many prior negotiations that led to contract agreements. An AT&T spokesman stated in a statement that the management listens, engage in substantive discussions, and share proposals back and forth till management reach an agreement, that is why they are surprised and disappointed that union leaders would name for a strike at this period in the negotiations.
The union stated it filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board towards AT&T for not sending representatives with authority to make arrangements at the bargaining table. AT&T says it completely disagrees with the report.
On Tuesday, shares of AT&T have been virtually unchanged from Friday’s shut. The stock is risen 28% so far in 2019, outpacing the 15% gain within the S&P 500 Index.
Despite the strong stock performance at AT&T and its rivals, the traditional telecommunications industry stays under pressure, with the number of landline phone lines shrinking every year. And the cable business is gaining market share from the telecom carriers in the still-rising broadband Internet market, including to the pressure.
That has led to some ugly confrontations with the unions, particularly during the 49-day strike by Verizon workers in 2016. However, AT&T has generally had smoother dealings with its unionized workforce, concluding some 20 contract agreements covering 89,000 employees since 2017. Nonetheless, the company has sometimes had issues. Several teams of workers went on short strikes in 2017, seeking higher pay and retirement benefits and strong job security guarantees.