Saturday marked a day of action for Communications Workers of America (CWA) in support of a fair contract with telecommunications giant AT&T. Hundreds of AT&T workers, their union brothers and sisters at CWA, and supporters from their communities carried out informational pickets in front of AT&T stores in 35 cities across the nation.
In Chicago, the picket took place in the heart of downtown, just a few blocks from the famous Chicago Theatre. The picketers carried signs that read “AT&T: poster child of corporate greed,” and “we want a fair and just contract.” Inside the store, AT&T held an event to celebrate the Chinese New Year, however, few people crossed the picket line.
“They’re not taking us seriously and so we’re drawing a line in the sand,” said Nicole Popis, an AT&T call center representative of nine years and cief steward of CWA, Local 4202. Nicole was joined on the picket line by her daughter Kamari and her sister Jennifer.
“The proposals they’ve presented have shown us that they’re not serious about not outsourcing, about better wages and about better healthcare. I’ve seen our staff go from 200 to 130 due to off-shoring and job security. The responsibilities keep increasing but AT&T is refusing to raise wages.”
The contract they’re fighting for covers 21,000 AT&T mobility workers. Popis says her and her coworkers are ready to do “whatever it takes” to make it fair.
The website for Communications Workers of America releases regular reports on bargaining that go into detail on the perspective of the negotiators. One of the most recent reports describes AT&T’s wage proposal as “offensive,” saying further that it “does not keep up with the cost of living, and it doesn’t address our need to bargain fair commissions.”
“We didn’t think it was possible,” the report reads, “but they are greedier and more out of touch than we thought.”
On February 11, negotiators from CWA and AT&T signed a temporary contract extension so that the contract remains intact while they continue to bargain. However, the extension allows CWA to call a strike by giving AT&T 72 hours notice of a cancellation of the extension.
Nicole, her family, and her coworkers don’t want a strike but, as she said, they’re willing to do “whatever it takes.”