About a dozen AT&T employees in Floyd County are joining 22,000 company employees in nine states on a strike this week.
The workers are stationed near the company’s office on Watergap Road, seeking a solution to what officials with the Communications Workers of America union describe as unfair labor practices in contract negotiations — an accusation that is being denied by the AT&T corporate office.
CWA announced on Friday that workers at AT&T Southeast would strike at midnight over “unfair labor practices committed by management during negotiations for a new contract.”
The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against AT&T with the National Labor Relations Board for “not bargaining in good faith and not sending representatives to the bargaining table with authority to make decisions,” a press release said.
Floyd County employees are part of the CWA’s District 3 region, which covers AT&T employees throughout the state and others.
“It’s unfair labor practice, and it’s against AT&T for unfair practices at the bargaining table,” said Devin Tackett, treasurer of CWA 3317. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the negotiation itself. It’s only that AT&T is not, like, they sent people to the table who didn’t have the authority to make decisions at the table. So, when it come down to it, they couldn’t make the decisions after they made a proposal.”
Tackett, a cable splicer, has worked at AT&T for 19 years. He stood out in protest on Watergap Road with other employees.
“We just want to keep our jobs, that’s all,” he said. “Keep our jobs. Keep our pay. Keep our benefits,” Tackett said. “AT&T, historically, they always try to fight us on that. They always try to take a little more, take a little more, but that’s still not what this strike is about. This strike is to get them to play fair at the table.”
He continued, “We’re going to stay until they bring somebody to the table and be fair about … That’s all we ask for, is that they negotiate fairly. We’re not asking them to give us more of anything, at all. We’re not asking for more money. We’re not asking for anything, just don’t take from us,” Tackett said. “That’s what they always want to do.”
Tackett reported on Tuesday that AT&T came back to the bargaining table on Monday evening. CWA issued a statement, stating, “Discussions are intense but there is a possibility that negotiations could move forward … It is our desire to reach an agreement and attain the contract our members deserve.”
Tackett said that negotiation lasted well into the night, and information about the results about those negotiations were not available prior to print deadline.
An official at the AT&T corporate office denies allegations made by those on strike.
Marty Richter of AT&T Corporate Communications, reported via email that the AT&T Southeast contract covers less than eight percent of its employees, and it doesn’t include employees who provide and maintain mobility or wireless services.
He said the company “strongly disagrees” with claims made by the union and was “surprised” by the strike.
“We strongly disagree with the union’s claims of unfair labor practices,” he wrote in the email. “Our bargaining team is negotiating this contract with CWA leaders in the same way we have successfully done with dozens of other CWA contracts over the years. We listen, engage in substantive discussions and share proposals back and forth until we reach agreement.”
He continued, “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.”
He reported that the company is “prepared for a strike and will continue working hard” to serve customers. “The company has reached, and union members have voted to ratify, 20 fair agreements since 2017 covering more than 89,000 employees,” he wrote. “That includes five similar agreements reached in late June and early July ratified by CWA members. We look forward to doing the same here.”