MOUNT PLEASANT — Employees of AT&T walked out and went on strike Thursday after filing an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
The Communication Workers of America union, Local 4611, walked out over a contract dispute. The strike affects Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
A few dozen AT&T workers maintained a picket line Thursday in front of the local company office at 6215 Regency West Drive. But the retail store at 5502 Washington Ave. remained open Thursday.
Local 4611 President Joshua Furlough said approximately 60 employees who cover Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties are on strike. In the entire five-state district, all of the approximately 14,000 employees in the union are striking.
“There’s no work getting done today,” said a union steward who refused to give his last name.
CWA Local 4611 Vice President Joseph Briere said the NLRB complaint was filed within the last week by three different union locals. The last three-year contract with AT&T expired April 14. With that expiration, he said, “We lost the right to arbitrate any grievances; their word is the final word.”
This is considered a grievance strike, or unfair labor practice strike, Briere explained. “The company had sent its final offer to employees (via emails) — not the bargaining team. That’s what prompted this strike.”
Briere said those emails encouraged employees to urge their representatives to take the company’s “final offer,” which he said contained an 11 percent pay increase over four years.
“The bargaining team didn’t see the final offer,” Briere said. “… They back-doored us.”
Out on strike are customer service specialists who do installation and repair, premise technicians who handle TV and internet, construction and office technicians, fleet mechanics and, in some locations, call center employees and sales people.
In response to the strike, AT&T issued this statement:
“A walkout is in nobody’s best interest, and it’s unfortunate that the union chose to do that.
“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. 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 health care 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.”
The company statement concluded, “We’re very prepared to continue serving customers. We’re a customer service company and we plan for all contingencies, whether related to weather, natural disasters, or even work stoppages.”
As to how long the strike might last, Briere said, “The last time it was seven days, and we went back to work when they started bargaining again.”
“All employees covered by the offer would be better off.” AT&T
“The bargaining team didn’t see the final offer. … They back-doored us.” Joseph Briere, vice president of Communication Workers of America Local 4611