Local AT&T workers join nationwide strike Sunday

(Matthew Beltz/WPRI)

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) – Local AT&T employees joined colleagues in other states in a strike Sunday as they pushed for a new contract.

Eyewitness News caught up with some of them outside a location in East Greenwich, where they said it was a brief weekend strike to encourage the company to come back to the negotiating table.

The strike began Friday, according to the Communications Workers of America, which represents 150,000 AT&T workers nationwide, and workers in 36 states walked off the job. The strikers included wireless workers, wireline workers, and DIRECTV workers.

According to the union, the key issues motivating the strike are wage increases to cover healthcare costs, outsourcing, and scheduling.

“We hope that the general public will support our union because it means fair wages for people across the board,” Sales Support Representative Michelle Earle said outside the East Greenwich store. “If we have strong unions then we have good wages, living wages.”

AT&T provided a written statement about the strikes to Eyewitness News:

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. We’re prepared, and we will continue working hard to serve our customers. What’s most important is we’re all family, whether you’re a union member of not. Like any family we have our disagreements but we’ll sort them out. We’ve reached 29 fair agreements since 2015 covering over 128,000 of our employees, and we’re confident we can do the same here.

Although the strike was only planned to last three days, union members said they are willing to continue if necessary. Managers staffed stores in Rhode Island through the weekend, according to strikers.