AT&T and the Communications Workers of America are back at the bargaining table after a weekend strike of retail and call center workers in 36 states including Minnesota.
Some 600 Minnesota union workers joined the picket lines from 2 p.m. Friday to 11:01 p.m. Sunday, said union officials from CWA Local 7250 and Local 7200. Across the country, 21,000 workers took part.
Workers and the company had agreed to extend the terms of a contract that expired in February until a new four-year contract could be worked out. According to the union, company officials stopped coming to the table, and union officials decided to revoke the old contract.
“Our employees are back at work, and we remain committed to reaching fair agreements in these contracts,” AT&T said in a statement.
Wages, sick leave and the offshoring of jobs to less expensive contract workers are among the issues on the negotiating table.
“Job security is a huge concern,” said Local 7250 President Shari Wojtowicz. “Out in the field the workers are hoping every day that the company will come to the table with the idea of bargaining a fair contract.”
The strike was the first ever called at the 1,300 AT&T retail stores, said Tim Dubnau, a spokesman for the Communications Workers of America District One in New York City.
Locally, the contract dispute affected workers at 27 AT&T corporate retail stores in Minnesota; dozens of field and software technicians in Minnesota and North Dakota; 50 DirectTV call center workers in Eden Prairie, and an estimated 220 AT&T call center workers in Bloomington.
Union members agreed to the three-day strike that started Friday, with the hopes of getting talks back on track, said Dubnau and Wojtowicz.
The two sides originally started bargaining on a new contract back in January in New Jersey, but have failed to reach an agreement.
Union members said their biggest concerns are that workers not be fired if they take eight days of sick leave as they were entitled to under the last contract.
The union also wants contract wording that firmly sets workers’ commission rates.
Union members accused the company of frequently changing commission goals and making it harder for retail sales reps to achieve baseline goals.
Lastly, workers said they are also worried about their jobs being outsourced to cheaper contractors and overseas firms.