Brandie Irwin walked the picketline Friday in Roseville, Minn., one of about 600 Minnesotans and tens of thousands of AT&T employees nationwide who walked off the job in a three-day strike.
“For me, it’s definitely about the increased cost for health care and the need for higher wages,” said Irwin, a sales support specialist who has worked at the store for four years.
The workers are members of the Communications Workers of America and represent four different union contracts: wireless workers in 36 states and Washington, D.C.; wireline workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut; and DIRECTV technicians in California and Nevada.
In all, some 40,000 people are involved.
“This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, which could result in closed retail stores this weekend and may be the largest strike of retail workers at a national company is U.S. history,” the CWA said in a news release.
“We will no longer stand by as AT&T hems and haws at the bargaining table, keeping its own workers from achieving the American Dream they once promised,” said Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1. “Despite being the largest telecom company in the country with nearly $1 billion a month in profits and the CEO earning $28 million, AT&T continues to pinch its workers’ basic needs and stand in the way of high-quality service its customers pay good money for.”
Communities with AT&T stores or call centers in Minnesota affected by the strike range from Baxter, Cloquet and Duluth to Grand Rapids, Mankato, Rochester and numerous parts of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
The workers are seeking:
- Wage increases to cover rising healthcare costs
- Affordable health care
- Security against outsourcing of their jobs; and
- A fair scheduling policy
Retail workers’ take home pay has plummeted in the last year after AT&T unilaterally changed its commission plan, the union said.
“Workers are also protesting AT&T’s pervasive outsourcing of jobs to low-wage contractors, which eliminates good jobs and hurts customer service,” the CWA said.
Since 2011, AT&T has eliminated 12,000 call center jobs in the United States, closing and downsizing call centers across the country.
The strike will end Monday morning, while the union and company continue bargaining that has been going on for several months.
To support the strikers, the CWA has set up a website where you can find a picketline near you.