Following months of contract standoff between 21,000 unionized workers and AT&T, employees of the telecommunications giant are using political pressure in a bid to find a solution to the stalemate. According to the CWA – Communications Workers of America, politicians numbering 255 at both the state and local level have sent correspondence to the chief executive officer of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, proclaiming their support for the workers. Some of the politicians who have sent the letters include six Democratic Party senators as well as dozens of congressmen from California.
“While we are aware of the changes that have taken place in the telecommunications industry, we know that AT&T wireless workers are the driving force behind your most profitable division. They deserve to share in the company’s success and growth,” 12 congressmen from the state of Arizona wrote to the CEO of AT&T in a recent letter.
iPhone launch protests
Despite the political pressure and protests which occurred outside the headquarters of Apple during the iPhone debut last month, AT&T appears unmoved by the campaign. Earlier in May the telecommunications giant also endured a short strike which saw many of its wireless stores close for a full weekend.
While there are concerns by the workers involving health benefits and wages, sales commission rates and job security are at the heart of the dispute. Of concern to the workers is that some of the call center jobs are being outsourced to other countries. This saw some employees of AT&T visit the Dominican Republic five months ago to meet with the workers who are now handling the customer service calls of AT&T.
Last week AT&T indicated that it has kept the communication lines with the politicians open and intends to keep the talks with the workers alive with a view to reaching a fair agreement. The workers’ contracts expired in February this year.
According to the CWA, the telecommunications giant has refused to negotiate over matters of job security especially at retail stores and call centers where majority of the workers are stationed. The vice president of CWA’s district 1, Dennis Trainor claimed that AT&T had managed to increase its profits to shareholders by reducing the commissions it pays its workers. The telecommunications giant had also failed to negotiate on the issue of job security despite the fact that it had laid off hundreds of workers at its call centers and outsourcing the jobs to countries where wages were lower.