About a dozen men stood gathered on the side of the road in downtown Tullahoma on Monday morning, braving winds and trickling rains to show their displeasure with what they call “unfair labor practices” by telecommunications giant AT&T.
According to spokesperson Joe Charlton, the men are members of Communications Workers of America Local 3803, a union for telecommunications workers. Charlton serves as local president.
The union staged a mass walkout of AT&T facilities across nine different states once the clock struck midnight Saturday, Aug. 24, Charlton said. Around 22,000 union members were participating in the strike as of Monday, Aug. 26.
According to Charlton, he and his fellow union members are striking because AT&T refused to fairly negotiate a new contract with CWA for the last two and a half months.
“They did not bring anybody to the bargaining table over the last two and a half months that could negotiate our contract for us,” Charlton said.
The union has been attempting to renegotiate the contact – which expired Aug. 3 – since June.
One thing AT&T was attempting to do, according to Charlton, was force the workers into “lower-scale” pay while keeping them in “higher-scale” work.
The company is also trying to take away the union workers’ sick time, Charlton added.
At one point, AT&T seemed willing to work with the union on the items proposed by the workers, Charlton said, but once union representatives convened to discuss the proposals, the telecommunications company failed to bring anyone who could “make the decisions that were needed.”
“When we came back to table the union was willing to work with AT&T, and AT&T decided there was no one there that could entertain our proposals after two and a half months of bargaining,” he said. “They’re bargaining in bad faith.”
Because the company refused to bring someone to the table to negotiate with them, the union called for a strike.
There is a “work center” for AT&T located at the corner of Monroe Street and Mitchell Boulevard, which is where all the striking Tullahoma workers are employed, Charlton said.
He added that the average tenure of service with AT&T by his striking workers was around 20 years. Some were newer additions to the union, but all just wanted what was “fair.”
“We’re just hoping that we get a fair contract that is fair for us,” he said.
A fair contract, according to Charlton, would be one that allows all the union workers to take care of their families and work for both the union and the company.
The strike was tentatively scheduled to end at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, according to Charlton.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.