With a vote being held across 36 states, union employees at AT&T are trying to decide whether or not a worker's strike will be an appropriate response if negotiations with the company fail. The workers are represented by Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications and media labor union in the US. The CWA and an AT&T spokesperson have both made statements about the on-going situation. However, it may be difficult to glean a clear picture of negotiations since those statements appear to be contradictory.
The CWA represents a huge number of employees stretching across telecommunications, print and news media, public service, healthcare, and the list goes on. As with most unions, it is no stranger to these and other types of entanglements – having stepped up to bat for employees of telecom companies as recently as August. In a statement about the AT&T negotiation, the union has made the claim that AT&T is underestimating how furious many of its employees are about the company's "decisions to cut pay and benefits and outsource jobs." The union statement goes on to list the problem areas, including AT&T's pension plans, medical benefits package, and sick-leave allotments. Meanwhile, AT&T shows very little worry that a strike will actually take place. Spokesperson Marty Richter said that strike votes are simply a part of the process of negotiations. He also reportedly claimed that, as bargaining continues, he is "confident that an agreement will be reached" which shows the company's commitment to giving union-represented employees "solid" careers with "excellent wages and benefits." The union workers contracts are up on February 11th, so voting has already gotten underway. The results of the vote could be revealed within the week. In the meantime, union workers are free to continue working if they wish, while negotiations are still under way.
Workers represented by the union consist of around 21,000 employees, whose jobs range from wireless retail to technical positions within the company. AT&T may ultimately be proven correct to have confidence in a deal being attainable without incident. However, it is also not hard to conclude that any negative outcome to the negotiations may lead to at least a few issues for AT&T because of the politically charged atmosphere currently surrounding the tech industry and that industry's workers. With such conflicting statements being made, it really is anybody's guess how this will play out.