AT&T workers rally for 'future of all working people'

ST. LOUIS -- 'This isn't just about our future,' Bob Huss, vice president of the St. Louis Communications Workers of America retirees council, told the World as nearly 200 AT&T employees rallied outside the downtown AT&T tower here July 14. 'This is about the future of all working people.'

The CWA represents over 3,000 AT&T employees in the St. Louis area and about 1,500 retirees. Nationwide, CWA represents about 100,000 AT&T employees. Their contract with AT&T expired on April 4.

Huss, who retired from AT&T after 39 years of service, is mad as hell. 'They made almost $13 billion in profits last year and they want us to give back,' he said. 'All they care about is making more money.'

Nellie Girouard, who retired from AT&T after 43 years of service, told the World, 'If AT&T gets its way, retirees will have to choose between medicine and groceries.'

John Ebeling, vice president of the CWA print and media sector and vice president of the Greater St. Louis Central Labor Council, said, 'It should be against the law to go after retirees' benefits. It's their money, not the company's.'

Ebeling, like other CWA members, is also concerned about outsourcing, something Earlene Jones knows about first hand. Jones, president of CWA Local 6377, lost over 800 members last year due to outsourcing at Western Union. 'They shipped our jobs to India, Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico,' Jones said.

'This is not a new story,' she added. 'This is happening everywhere. AT&T, Western Union, the St. Louis Post Dispatch. We have to deal with outsourcing on a national level. This is not just a CWA issue. It's a national issue.'

Lew Moye couldn't agree more. Moye, president of the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), recently retired from Chrysler after 44 years. However, retirement for him is bittersweet. His plant and his job have been shipped overseas. In fact, both St. Louis Chrysler plants now sit empty and lifeless -- like the Ford and GM plants just miles away.

'This outsourcing has got to stop,' he told the World. 'We struggle every day to make ends meet, to pay the bills, to pay for health care and to put a little away for a rainy day, while they ship our jobs overseas.'

Jim Kolve, vice president of CWA Local 6300, said, 'AT&T should not take advantage of the American worker because of the bad economy.'

Kolve, who also serves as president of the Greater St. Louis CWA City Council, added, 'This rally is to let the company know that we don't like their 'last, best and final' offer. And we're not going to take it.'

tonypec @ cpusa.org