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AT&T faces worker walkout

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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.

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