By Jim Ramey and Paul Fleckenstein
The first labor stoppage during the Trump administration needs your support! The pickets began yesterday and will continue until tomorrow as Communication Workers of America attempt to negotiate a fair contract with management at AT&T Mobility. The issues are similar to many labor struggles in the 21st century; management has been outsourcing all the jobs they can while degrading the jobs that stay with increased employee costs for health care, paltry wage increases and arbitrary management practices.
With approximately 15 retail stores in Vermont, often with just a handful of unionized sales and customer support staff, picket lines are understaffed and in need of solidarity. In the greater Burlington area, there are less than 2 dozen workers. Outsourcing is not just an overseas phenomenon as corporate retailers like the non-union, low-wage Best Buy are taking much of the retail business away from the entirely unionized staff at AT&T Mobility stores. Adding five to ten solidarity supporters to several picketers makes a big difference.
Members of the International Socialist Organization joined the picket line today and were able to hear first hand stories of why the workers see this action as necessary. Speaking with one worker about the rising cost of health care it was said that the company wants a cheaper plan with a higher deductible that would add $200 a month to what workers pay for the family plan. Coupled with a proposed 2% wage increase it would be justified to call this contract a wage cut.
The arbitrary disciplinary actions of management have also been a sticking point in negotiations. A disciplinary point system that even sympathetic managers must apply automatically is an example of strikers concerns. Workers who don’t show up to work when they are sick, or who are late to work due to winter storms or commute time traffic accidents are automatically docked disciplinary points—which quickly limit transfer and promotion options and can lead to firing.
Despite these grievances, all the strikers were clear on the advantages of unionized retail versus the vast majority of the rest, non-unionized, low-pay and no benefits jobs. One long-term retail worker at another consumer electronics chain said that working in a unionized store is a night and day difference; better working conditions, pay, and benefits. As with the CWA Verizon strike last year, AT&T Mobility workers are also fighting to stem the tide of outsourcing and diminishing living standards that threatens their union and promises further erosion for everyone else.BRING YOUR SIGNS. BRING COFFEE. BRING DONUTS. BRING SOLIDARITY.