AT&T workers strike over contract

Members of the Communication Workers of America Local 1298 strike outside of the AT&T service center on Vauxhall Street Extension in Waterford Tuesday.
Members of the Communication Workers of America Local 1298 strike outside of the AT&T service center on Vauxhall Street Extension in Waterford Tuesday. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo

Thousands of AT&T workers in Connecticut held an unfair labor practice strike Tuesday, claiming the company has failed to bargain in good faith during ongoing contract negotiations.

About 30 workers wearing their red Communications Workers of America Local 1298 union shirts with picket signs around their necks stood outside the AT&T garage on Vauxhall Street Extension in Waterford Tuesday morning.

Union President Bill Henderson said workers had to go on the two-day strike because the company "wasn't bringing anything to the table." He said an unfair labor practice complaint was filed last month with the National Labor Review Board in New Haven.

The union represents 3,200 employees who work as linemen, installers, splicers, commercial marketers and operators.

"AT&T feels like they are above the law," Henderson said. "Their refusal to bargain is an unfair labor practice. They also are trying to change the rules while we are bargaining and that's against the law. We brought to them 100 different proposals and they haven't come back with anything."

Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman, said the company has been negotiating in good faith since Feb. 29. He said AT&T has recently reached tentative agreements with other CWA workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in other regions who perform similar work as the Connecticut employees. Those contracts cover nearly 48,000 land line employees.

Workers on strike said a big point of contention for them is the rising cost of health care, loss of sick time and equitable cost-of-living increases.

"They keep nickel-and-diming us," said Sean Brennan, a lineman. "Morale at the company is at an all-time low. Our work makes them money but they don't want to share it with us."

Scott Herbert, who has been with the company for 34 years, said AT&T hires outside contractors to do work that employees should be doing.

"If a car hits a pole, they will hire a contractor to fix it when it should be our job," he said. "These contractors don't live here. They don't pay taxes. They will pay the contractor overtime but not us. It's corporate greed. That's a shame."

Henderson said the union will continue to strike today.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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