May 20--Chicago-area AT&T workers who are members of Communications Workers of America walked off the job Friday as part of a planned three-day national strike over a contract dispute.
The walkout could shut down some AT&T retail stores this weekend. Illinois has 53 AT&T stores, two call centers and 1,274 workers covered by the CWA contract, according to the union.
Nationwide, the striking groups are made up of 40,000 workers covered by four union contracts, including wireless workers in 36 states and Washington, D.C.; wireline workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut; and DirecTV technicians in California and Nevada.
The CWA's contract with AT&T expired in February. Workers are demanding that AT&T commit to "bargaining that addresses affordable benefits, fair wages and job security," according to a news release the union issued Friday. Workers also are protesting AT&T's "pervasive offshoring of jobs to low-wage contractors, which eliminate good jobs and hurt customer service."
Dea Polchow, 56, who works at a wireless call center in downstate Rantoul, joined strikers on the picket line Friday afternoon at the AT&T store on North Michigan Avenue.
A 15-year employee at the call center, Polchow said her biggest concern is job security.
"They're taking and outsourcing our call centers overseas," Polchow said. "We do want to talk about wages. We're concerned about our health benefits. But you can't talk about those if you don't have a job."
This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, according to the union.
AT&T addressed the strike in statement Friday.
"A strike is in no one's best interest, and it's baffling that union leadership would call one when we're offering terms in which our employees in these contracts -- some of whom average from $115,000 to $148,000 in total compensation -- will be better off financially," the company said.
Dallas-based AT&T said it would manage its operations without significant disruption over the three-day strike.
"We are thoroughly prepared for a work stoppage, and we're committed to delivering the best service we possibly can," AT&T said. "We'll be open for business. And we have a number of ways for our customers to receive products and services from us -- strike or no strike."
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