More than 20,000 AT&T employees across the Southeast resigned from work on Saturday, according to Communications Workers of America, a union representing many of the company's employees who work in call centers and maintain the company's telecommunications network.
Members of CWA's local unions across nine states, including Alabama, left their positions Saturday and took a seat in front of AT&T facilities to protest the negotiation tactics employed by the company. The strike includes AT&T employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
AT&T negotiates contracts for its employees in the Southeast, but the union says the company sent people to negotiate with those who did not have the authority to enter into agreements.
"We are here for an unfair labor strike," said Errol Minor, vice president of CWA Local 3902, the Birmingham chapter.
Minor led six other protesters in front of the AT&T building outside US 280, opposite the summit. He said 3902 members protested in front of several AT&T locations across the Birmingham area, including downtown on 6th Avenue North, Pelham, Gardendale and Pike Road. CWA has local chapters located across Alabama.
"AT&T has sent dealers to the negotiating table who have not negotiated in good faith," Minor said. "If we can get someone from [AT&T headquarters] Dallas, not just a figure, but someone who can negotiate in good faith, all this will disappear."
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said the company was prepared for the strike but was surprised it happened.
"A strike is in nobody's best interest," Richter said. "We are still ready to sit down with union leaders to listen to their concerns and work with them to negotiate a new, improved contract for our employees.
" We are surprised and disappointed that union leaders would convene a strike at this point in the negotiations, especially when we offer terms that will help our employees ̵
In northern Alabama, CWA Local 3905 President David Betz said in a news release that the chapter's 300 members affected by the strike would arrive back to work when good faith Negotiations resumed.
"[O] AT&T is required to return to the negotiating table, with the right dealers," Betz said. "It is not our intention to place any unnecessary hardship on AT&T. customers, but the company must know that its employees deserve fair negotiations. "
Richter said the company has offered competitive terms to the union.
" We have offered the unions that are in accordance with what other CWA representatives have approved in recent contract negotiations; the company has reached 20 fair agreements since 2017 covering more than 89,000 employees, ”Richter said via email. "The Southeast contract covers less than 8 percent of our staff.
" We are prepared for a strike and in case of work stoppage we will continue to work hard to serve our customers. "