AT&T faces worker walkout

Eve Troeh Apr 6, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Well now to some jobs that might be put on hold tomorrow night. Forty thousand AT&T workers are set to strike if the company can’t reach an agreement with their union. Marketplace’s Eve Troeh reports.

Eve Troeh: These are old school AT&T workers, the ones who shimmy up phone poles, or discuss your long distance bill. And they have an old school union, the Communications Workers of America. It’s covered them:

Candice Johnson: Oh, probably since the very early 1940s.

Union spokeswoman Candice Johnson. She says AT&T made huge profits the past few years. But it’s outsourced jobs, and failed to hire much-needed staff.

Johnson: Forced overtime, seven day a week schedules, 12 hours or more every day has become the rule.

The union also doesn’t want wages to go down, or health care premiums to go up. AT&T wants to control costs as it faces competition.

The company says it’s prepared for a strike. It’s training other workers, including managers, to fill in.

Orrick: It’s not really going to work.

Norwood Orrick is a union phone worker in Tampa, Fla. He fixes landline and wireless cables. He says if, say, bad weather strikes down a connection, guys like him can fix it fast. But:

Orrick: That’s something that the managers will be running around in circles trying to figure out what to do.

Read your AT&T contract and you’ll likely see the company is not liable for problems caused by a strike.

I’m Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.