AT&T Southeast Bargaining Report #48 – FU* Edition

*Naturally, “FU” stands for Fairness and Unity

Thanks to US Representative Donna Shalala and Robert Asencio, who support working families in Miami and the workers across the state of Florida. Asencio can be heard in the above video supporting CWA strikers in doing the right thing; CWA workers can support him for Florida State senate!

AT&T Southeast Bargaining Report #48

Today we were able to have some constructive dialogue with AT&T.
Yesterday we all worked late into the night and we are prepared to
settle negotiations. We plan to meet with the company again this
evening. If the company is serious, we could settle the contract
tonight. We will find out later tonight if they are able to make a deal or
not. We cannot express how much we appreciate all that has taken
place across the District. Today, we all understand the truth in the
words to that old familiar chant “We are the Union”.

Nick Hawkins
Assistant to the Vice President
Communications Workers of America District 3

AT&T Spots Nationwide Unity, Takes Employees’ Livelihoods Hostage

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.”

This usually fixes it

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.

Next Steps

  • 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

AT&T Detects Unity; Summons CWA District 4 Back to the Table

..And five days later a tentative agreement (TA) is reached!

At first blush, it makes the whole “Districts United” thing seems a little awkward – until one recalls the timing. This time, there is demonstrable unity among rank-and-file members across CWA districts, which demonstrably got AT&T’s attention. Many social media groups contain thousands of AT&T employees/CWA members from across the nation; these all share a common theme: Militant Frustration. What’s more, rank-and-file members are communicating and spreading this unity outside the normal channels (sometimes far outside).

Who’s leaving the money on the table?

That unity is the force that brought AT&T back to bargaining in the Midwest. AT&T wisely fears unity among its employees in various CWA districts. Perhaps AT&T is counting on “bargaining fatigue” to induce the members of District 4 to vote on an agreement, perhaps timed for District 3’s contract expiration on August 3rd?

400+ Days Changes Things

In that time, employees of AT&T in every CWA district have seen it create “crises” in order to then seek advantage at the bargaining table by “solving” the crisis – for a price. Examples in recent times include:

  • The “Father’s Day Massacre” (nationwide “surplus”/layoffs of ~1800)
  • “Surplussing”/laying-off of Premise Techs/Wire Techs outside of seniority
  • Communicating its propaganda directly to employees in what are basically “electronic captive audience meetings”
  • Conducting “ghost layoffs” by targeting and unfairly disciplining employees.
  • Pitting one group of employees against another to “get the work”
  • Above all, giving away our work to filthy contractors!

These are not the actions of a company who wants to bargain fairly.
Days in CWA D4 without a contract, or a raise:

Mobilization works both ways

National unity is becoming a cause!

It can’t be ignored that CWA District 4 and the CWA president himself, Chris Shelton, are bringing back a TA that they feel addresses the needs and the demands of their membership. Often, especially over long bargaining such as this, “fair bargaining” under US labor law means taking back something right on the line of acceptable. Whether or not the rank-and-file within District 4 agree with this remains to be seen as details of the TA emerge in the coming days. Here is what rank-and-file can do to make their voices heard:

  • Show up. To the contract explanation meetings, calls, etc.
  • Show up in force. Bring like-minded sisters and brothers; let them know you are going and what your concerns are
  • Be direct with your Local about your concerns with the TA; the CWA Convention is being held July 29-31, 2019 and you will want Local officers to take your concerns to CWA leadership in person. In fact, any member is welcome to show up to view the proceedings.
  • Decide if you are being respected by this offer from AT&T. Vote the TA accordingly.
Take the first offer?

Last time in District 4, the ratification vote was very close (“..with 51.6 percent of the CWA members voting Yes and 48.4 percent voting No, with 56.8 percent return.” ).Voting it down hard, in high numbers, would empower the bargaining team to get more of what employees in District 4 and every other District have earned by building the network. Of course, this would likely delay things so long that AT&T would be contending with two Districts at a time, when bloated with debt, it can ill-afford labor unrest. What say you, fellow workers?