by Kat Anderson
July 20, 2012
A small but vocal contingent of CWA members rallied Thursday at AT&T headquarters in San Francisco to demand a contract settlement with the telecommunications giant that protects pay and health benefits.
The message, delivered through megaphones and chants by members of three Bay Area telecom locals and the Pacific Media Workers Guild, called on AT&T to offer terms that respect the workers who helped make it a billion-dollar company.
The rally called attention to the fact that workers have been laboring without a contract since last April. Union members, including many who work at AT&T job sites from Alameda to San Luis Obispo, marched in front of the company’s San Francisco headquarters at Second and Folsom streets. Passersby, pedestrians as well as drivers with rolled-down windows, took flyers calling for consumer solidarity.
“We are here to let the company know that we come to the table to bargain fairly and to ask AT&T to bring jobs back to the U.S.,” said Orange Richardson, president of Communications Workers of America Local 9410.
“AT&T has made 100 billion dollars in the last ten years.” he said. “The company is systematically contributing to the problems in the economy by downgrading the circumstances of its workers and leaning on older employees over pension issues.” (Click here for video interview or click on the box above.)
Hugh Sutherland was on hand to provide specifics about the harsh impacts of AT&T’s corporate policies. Sutherland is a “customer-provided equipment ” technician, or “CPE tech,” in one of the company’ data-line units. AT&T has changed the division’s name to “Uverse,” and begun “paying Uverse guys a whole lot less” than they earned before, said Sutherland.
He recounted how AT&T temporarily reassigned him to a different department, did not return him to his original post, then reassigned him to Uverse, all maneuvers designed to cut his pay.
He figured the move cost him $30,000 a year in pay.
“They’ve gotten rid of the shift differential I used to work and the yearly bonus. I used to work later shifts, which paid more per hour. AT&T said customers don’t want appointments from 4 pm to 8 pm,” he said, as he sat on a brick bench, rubbing a sore foot after a day at work and an hour marching in heavy work boots.
Stephanie Olvera, president of CWA Local 9423, said that since she took office in 2008, AT&T has become leaner and certainly meaner.
“Upper management has become greedier over time,” she said, “and the company has been using this recession as a smokescreen to provide an excuse for labor cuts.”
“The company isn’t poor, so why are they trying to take away healthcare, pensions, things we as workers deserve?” she said.
Olvera said the best-case scenario is “a ratifiable, tentative agreement.”
The worst case?
“Work stoppage. Everyone loses, we’re out of work, the customer loses service, the company flounders.”