Local AT&T workers join strike

AT&T Mobility workers demonstrate outside their workplace in Logansport Friday afternoon, May 19. They intend to remain on strike until Monday morning, May 22.

Local AT&T Mobility employees joined a strike and demonstrations across the country Friday in an effort to voice concerns about job security as contract negotiations continue between their union and the company.

About eight employees of AT&T's Logansport location at 3920 E. Market St. held protest signs outside the store Friday afternoon, May 19. They're members of Communication Workers of America, which organized a work stoppage for its members employed by AT&T Mobility, according to Tony Burse.

Burse is a sales consultant at the local AT&T and a chief steward for Communication Workers of America Local 4900, which represents all of Indiana.

He said the strike arose amid contract negotiations between AT&T Mobility and the union for workers in 36 states, among them sales consultants, retail workers, call center employees and wireless technicians.

Their most recent contract expired Feb. 11 and both sides have been bargaining since January, Burse said.

"There's been no positive movement at the table," he said.

Everyone demonstrating outside Logansport's AT&T was non-management, Burse said — retail consultants and sales support representatives.

He described the demonstration as a "work stoppage and economic strike" scheduled to last from 3 p.m. Friday to Monday morning, May 22.

The store won't be closed throughout that time, he said, adding a manager and district manager were holding down the fort Friday afternoon.

Job security is one of the main issues behind the strike, Burse said.

"At an alarming rate what AT&T is doing is they are closing company-owned stores like this one that are very good-paying middle-class jobs, they're closing stores like this and then reopening them as third-party franchise authorized dealers," he said.

Those dealers often offer lower wages, fewer benefits, no pension plan and run businesses with less oversight and efficiency, Burse continued.

"That's one of the major issues at the bargaining table is getting contract language that's going to secure these official company-owned stores are run by members like us that have proper training, have the experience and have been doing this a long time," he said.

Wage increases that cover rising health care costs, protections against outsourcing and fair scheduling policies are also important bargaining points for the union, Burse said.

"We understand that during a three-day strike, depending on what they got going on in there, it could inconvenience some of the customers when it gets busy, but that's not ultimately what we're going for," he said. "We're just out here trying to send a clear message that we're serious about a fair contract that provides good, middle class jobs here in the U.S."

A statement AT&T posted to its website said the company "remains committed to reaching a fair agreement."

The company says it's offering terms that will leave employees "better off financially," and that the terms are consistent with other contracts that AT&T employees nationwide have ratified.

The strike involves less than 14 percent of AT&T's total workforce, according to the company. The only major wireless company with a unionized workforce, AT&T employs close to 265,000, it indicated on its website.

Reach Mitchell Kirk at mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130

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