CWA gets ready for a fight

March 25, 2009

Randy Christensen of Communications Workers of America Local 9415 explains the stakes in his union's upcoming fight with AT&T.

DURING THE past year, a movement has been developing in the ranks of the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

We've been at work training 17,000 members to lead us into battle with AT&T, now the largest unionized employer in the country, and certainly among the richest and greediest. We've got all 170,00 CWA union workers infused with a "Yes We Can" attitude at AT&T, where most of our contracts expire on or near April 4.

AT&T is the greedy Texas corporation formerly known as SBC. In the past two rounds of bargaining, it informed us that it was not seeking concessions. We know it not only sought, but extracted concessions in those agreements.

This time, AT&T has openly communicated their intent to extract concessions. The health care concessions they propose alone amount to a 7 to 10 percent pay cut. Bargaining and other updates are available at the CWA at AT&T Web site.

Trainings of the members have revealed deep anger at the greedy policies of the corporation, and at corporate greed in general. Last year, profits increased $2.6 billion over the previous year's $10.3 billion in earnings.

CWA Local 13000 members and supporters on the march in Pittsburgh in August 2008
CWA Local 13000 members and supporters on the march in Pittsburgh in August 2008 (Molly Theobald)

So while management swims in the nearly $13 billion in profits that we've provided them, they refuse to bargain concerning our retirees and demand major cuts in health care, while continuing to reward the CEO like a king. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson gets paid daily what we earn in a year! The members are fed up, as we see our children's future mortgaged or eliminated.

The CWA's position is clear. We're telling AT&T management to get off our back--instead of shifting costs, they can stand with us to make health care reform in this country. It's obvious we all lose when looking at health care solely as a bargaining issue. We need to mobilize to make health care for all the reality. This will force the Wal-Marts to pay their fare share, while removing this huge obstacle from the bargaining table.

This is one of the many strategic problems we're working to address. The campaign for the Employee Free Choice Act similarly reflects pressures at the bargaining table.

When everything is said and done, we still have the problem of very greedy, rapacious and determined AT&T management training scabs as this article is written. The pressure is extreme as our members begin working to rule, among other mobilization efforts.

We recently had a "Health Care Action Day," where members all over wore bandages and used canes and crutches to let management know that "Cutting Our Health Care Is a Sick Idea!" Folks had fun.

The ball is in our court. It's time for us to step up and mobilize like we haven't in generations.

This is the message from the Verizon fight where the members mobilized in the workplace and on the streets. We outreached to our friends, families and allies in our communities and in the faith community. We enlisted the support of political leaders, etc.

And at the end of the day, with the video rollout and wireless war in progress, Verizon signed. It did not want a protracted shutdown. AT&T is in the same position. It may say, "We're not Verizon." We say it is nothing up against the combined power of the workers. Our motto is: One Day Longer, One Day Stronger!

Forward Ever, Backward Never!

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