AT&T workers across all divisions nationwide, numbering around 37,000, have begun a three-day strike that they promised earlier in the week to mount if AT&T did not reach a favorable agreement with them by 3 PM Eastern time today. The strike involves workers from AT&T’s wireless and wireline operations, as well as DIRECTV employees. The massive strike encompasses all operations that the striking employees participate in, and has the full backing of Communication Workers of America, who helped AT&T employees bargain with their employer and eventually launch their ultimatum, then arrange the strike when bargaining fell through. According to AT&T, they offered protesting workers a deal that they thought was favorable, but the union rejected it. Negotiations fell through from there, so when the promised time rolled around, the strike was made official.
AT&T, for their part, said that these actions are “in no one’s best interest,” calling the strike “baffling.” This comes on the heels of a large-scale protest in Dallas during a shareholder meeting, which was followed by smaller demonstrations throughout the country. That shareholder meeting protest and the talks and smaller protests that took place afterward eventually led to Wednesday’s events, where over 10% of the company’s total workforce made their intentions to strike known.
Tensions between AT&T and its workers have been high for quite some time, with a strike similar to this one, but smaller in scale, happening back in March. AT&T’s employees, joined by members of the CWA going as far up as the vice president, have been speaking out against unfair contracts, poor working conditions, outsourcing, and even questionable business practices like perceived under-investing in network infrastructure. This strike is the culmination of these tensions, and is not only one of the largest strikes AT&T as a company has ever seen, but the first such large-scale strike on record to include workers from AT&T’s wireless operations. AT&T is the biggest wireline carrier in America, and the second biggest wireless carrier, so breakdowns in negotiation such as this could be seen in a negative light by some. The damage to AT&T’s operations and reputation dealt by a three day strike could be quite negligible, but workers and CWA members are hoping it’s enough to show AT&T that they mean business.