AT&T Union Contract Talks Ramping Up, Strikes Threatened

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Two AT&T union contracts are expiring, and workers may be striking if they don’t like proposed agreement terms. Fortune reported that 92 percent of about 2,000 AT&T internet business workers have voted to authorize a strike, as their contract expired last week. Representatives with the Communications Workers of America (the union) and the company are in talks regarding this agreement, including AT&T proposing to freeze wages for three years and increasing employees’ health care coverage contribution. The current contract has been extended until an agreement is reached.
AT&T told Fortune that strike talks during negations are not unexpected and routine. The company “remains confident than an agreement will be reached.”  
The second contract deals with 15,000 California- and Nevada-based employees in the traditional telephone service space, also with CWA. They have been easing into the strike zone, picketing AT&T events during negotiations, which Fortune said are dragging. CWA has told members that “no deal is close on issues including cost sharing, deductibles, health care co-pays, and various terms for pension benefits,” leading picketing of events such as the company’s tech expo outside of AT&T Park on July 16.
The union and AT&T had a long period of peace, with the last strike occurring in 2012. More than 20,000 workers in California, Connecticut and Nevada walked out for two days, Fortune reported. This time, strike talks have escalated when a deal last month between the company and CWA regarding new health care benefits for 40,000 workers in the wireless space was not agreed upon.
CWA members, according to Fortune, may be looking at Verizon’s current strike as a precedent for negotiating. Forty thousand wired telephone, Internet, and cable TV Verizon workers went on strike for seven weeks, and “ended up with a much better deal after the walkout concluded than the company had offered in what it called its ‘last, best offer’ weeks earlier.”