20,000 AT&T workers in the Southeast who are members of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union are striking because of what they say are unfair labor practices. Two thousand of those workers are lining the streets outside of AT&T facilities from Pembroke Pines to Key West. Here in Key West, you’ll see workers outside the AT&T facilities on United and Southard Street.
If you’ve had trouble with service — including the call center, instillation and repair, landline telephone, Ethernet and fiber optic connections, the strike may be the reason.
“It’s an unfair labor practices strike,” said Christopher Walterson, AT&T employee and president of the Communication Workers of America Local 3122, which stretches from Key West to Pembroke Pines. “(Workers) went out because AT&T violated the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act), because they didn’t have anyone at the bargaining table that could make a decision,” he said. “So, we filed separate charges against the company.”
The other incident that prompted the regional strike took place in Miami, where union workers were doing their jobs while wearing a sleeve with the CWA emblem on it and the words “I pledge.” The workers were disciplined by AT&T and asked to leave and not return while wearing union apparel. “I’d hope to see AT&T allow us to act within our rights and wear union-branded apparel and send someone to the bargaining table who can make decisions. But until that, we’ll be out indefinitely.”
Their contract expired Aug. 3, and according to union sources, AT&T has refused to bring top executives to negotiation meetings who have the power to agree to any significant changes to workers’ contracts. Walterson called an emergency membership meeting to address both the contract issue and the apparel issue. The workers have been striking since last Thursday, Aug. 22.
Walterson says that up and down the Keys, and on the mainland, the communities have turned out to support the striking workers and encourage their demands for fair terms. “We’ve had very good community support, our brothers and sisters with Teamsters and the transportation unions have pitched in to help us out — even to keep us hydrated and healthy on the picket line.”
That’s not the only support the CWA has seen. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont stopped by a CWA march outside an AT&T Southeast office in Louisville to address the workers.