Workers tell AT&T: Dont Wal-Mart us

ST. LOUIS — 'AT&T is leading the race to the bottom,' Communications Workers of America Local 6300 President Kevin Kujawa said as some 150 CWA members picketed the AT&T tower here Aug. 6.

'In this economy, AT&T should be part of the recovery,' he added.

CWA Local 6300 members have been picketing AT&T regularly since their contract expired April 4.

While neighboring CWA union locals in District 4 have agreed to new contract terms, “we've still got a long way to go,' Kujawa told the World.

Local 6300 is part of CWA District 6, which represents over 71,000 workers in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri.

District 6 Vice President Andy Milburn noted, 'AT&T made $12.9 billion in profits last year. They've made $6.2 billion so far this year. They don't need to cut our members' pay and benefits to survive. AT&T isn't suffering like the auto industry.'

Additionally, Milburn said, 'AT&T is trying to create a new cost structure. By cutting wages and benefits they are trying to change the cost structure and lower the standard of living for our members.'

He also talked briefly about AT&T's new CEO Randall Stephenson.

Milburn commented, 'Stephenson comes out of finance. He graduated with a finance degree. He worked in the finance department. He's a bean counter and we're all beans out here.'

Kujawa expressed concern for CWA's retirees. 'Legally CWA can't bargain for the retirees. We can't negotiate with AT&T on behalf of the retirees and make them live up to their responsibilities,' he said.

'These workers put in 30, 35, 40 years and expect a certain standard living. They expect the pension, health care and other benefits they were promised.”

“By cutting their benefits, AT&T will force some retirees to seek state assistance,' he said.

CWA Local 6300 members have been working without a contract for four months now. Job security is a major issue, as AT&T has shipped tens of thousands of jobs to India, the Philippines, Argentina, Costa Rico and Mexico.

Bob Huss, vice president of the CWA retirees chapter, told the World, 'AT&T wants complete control. It isn't about money to them. They've got the money. It's about control.'

'They want to be able to work people three days this week and seven days next week,' Huss added, 'without paying a dime in overtime.'

After thanking CWA sister unions for their support, as well as Jobs with Justice, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, the United Auto Workers and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Kujawa added, 'AT&T thinks we live in a Wal-Mart economy. And they are trying to Wal-Mart their workforce. Well AT&T, this isn't Wal-Mart. And we're not backing down.'

tonypec @ cpusa.org