Just weeks after CWA union members employed at AT&T around the country began a small but effective concerted activity, something startling happened: AT&T and CWA announced three tentative agreements (TA’s) in just one day! This includes in the Midwest, where CWA District 4 members have been working at AT&T for over 400 days without a contract.
Needs of the business?
After declaring a “surplus” of about 1800 employees nationwide (“surplus” is AT&T’s creepy word for impending job-reductions/layoffs) including hundreds in the Midwest just before Father’s Day, AT&T added them as a “sweetener,” one supposes, to induce the District 4 bargaining team to accept what seems to be yet more retrogression from a profitable employer.
And of course, ratification of this TA must fall within days of contract expiration for CWA District 3, in the Southeast. AT&T no doubt noted that, combined with Legacy T and long-suffering District 4, there is potential for a mighty labor reckoning if all three regions decide to get rowdy (Legacy T is nationwide) when working without contracts at the same time.
Seems almost like the surplus was planned all along for AT&T to gain hostages in this negotiation with District 4, and not just for “economic reasons.”
What builds unity?
Basically, AT&T offered to rescind the “current 3rd quarter surplus” upon ratification of the AT&T Midwest/CWA District 4 TA, “saving” about 250 jobs. For at least the third quarter of 2019. How could the bargaining team not accept? The bargaining team is comprised of elected Local officers from around the Midwest who will feel very deeply a decision to not “save” the jobs of those in their locals. No doubt some similar terrible idea is being contemplated by AT&T for bargaining in the Southeast, with District 3; where they have 911 employees “surplussed.”
A common misconception is that unity is built by excellent union leadership. This is not true; at least not one hundred per cent. Nope, it is the employer who builds the most unity, in the fastest possible way, simply by being an asshole. And, it cannot be denied: AT&T has inspired nationwide unity with this so-called “surplus” hostage tactic. Many recognize that the “hostages” are only guaranteed not to be surplussed in the third quarter; employees are in a definite “no-trust” situation right now with AT&T.
A hard choice has been passed to the CWA members of District 4. It is they who must decide if this deeply cynical, deeply immoral tactic by AT&T will become the new normal. This, balanced against the prospect of risking their own job or that of their fellow worker jobs by voting down the TA. Frankly, it can be demoralizing when faced with these tactics.
How District 4 votes will almost certainly impact how AT&T treats other Districts in bargaining; and chat-rooms, WhatsApp and Signal groups are working in a kind of unity, caucusing if you will, to reach a consensus on how we got here, and what role not striking upon contract expiration plays.
- Get educated; locals will be passing out the info that was provided to them from the District and the bargaining team
- Get with your goon-squad; attend every meeting, every call
- Get heard; let your local president know what the concerns are with the TA. Doesn’t hurt to let the District know, either
And then, of course, vote