An estimated 21,000 wireless phone service workers nationwide at AT&T voted in early February to authorize a strike as their contract expired.
The strike comes at a hard time for AT&T's wireless business, which has faced intense pressure since the start of the year from aggressive competitors and apathetic customers. The held signs reading "On Strike" as customers went in and out of the store and pedestrians walked by.
AT&T, for its part, said that the company is prepared for workers to walk off the job but continues to negotiate. The company has refused to move on any of a long list of union demands around pay, health care costs, performance incentives and outsourcing of jobs.
"A strike is in no one's best interest, and it's baffling as to why union leadership would call one when we're offering terms in which our employees in these contracts. will be better off financially", Richter said.
Union leadership released the following statement: "After almost four months of bargaining, AT&T wireless workers are striking to end AT&T's assault on its employees and protect good jobs at America's largest telecom company".
Workers have been mobilizing all week, with informational picketing outside call centers and wireless stores, preparing for the strike, national union leaders said.
Full disclosure: In These Times staff are members of the Communication Workers of America, and the union is a sponsor of the magazine.
The company said it was still eager to reach a deal.
With over 200,000 employees in the U.S, AT&T is the country's largest telecom company. The current negotiations are over the "Orange Book" contract covering 36 states, with Black, Purple and Green being mostly settled and bargained at other times. CWA members also want a reversal of the company's recently changed bonus and incentive pay policy for commissions, which resulted in many employees losing thousands of dollars in take-home pay each year. This involves less than 14 percent of our employees. Workers are expected to go back to work on Monday.