AT&T reaches final deal with wireless workers after yearlong labor standoff

Communications Workers of America (CWA) members have approved a four-year contract with AT&T by an overwhelming majority after a difficult monthslong labor standoff. The deal rolls back offshoring and outsourcing and sets a new standard for wireless retail and call center jobs in America.

The agreement offers a guaranteed 80% increase in the portion of customer service calls handled exclusively by wireless workers in the U.S. who are CWA members, along with first-ever job security language that guarantees a job for workers whose store or call center is closed or whose job title is eliminated.

On the compensation and take-home pay front, $2,500 has been shifted from commission to base pay for 14,000 retail workers, making pay more stable. There will be an increase in on-call pay for technicians, and AT&T will enable flat health insurance cost-sharing to minimize out-of-pocket costs for workers.

When a tentative deal was announced last month, the union also said that retail workers will be paid an average of $19.20, which is 74% more than the national average for retail workers.

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Other terms include limits on the types of monitoring and surveillance that can be in use at retail and call center locations (so that worker evaluation is fair and equitable), a greater ability to use sick days without risk of discipline and safety equipment for warehouse workers.

"When working people have the freedom to join together and negotiate, they can use their power to increase job security and keep good jobs in our communities," said Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District One. "CWA members at AT&T Wireless should be proud of what they have achieved through their solidarity and persistence."

The contract negotiations leading up to the deal dragged on for a year and were among the most fractious in recent memory. AT&T was forced to close hundreds of retail stores across the country when workers walked off the job in the largest national retail strike in US history. AT&T wireless workers and community supporters took to the streets to protest what it said was the second-largest national carrier’s “failing to invest in its core business and infrastructure,” even as it generates “nearly $1 billion a month in profits.”

The CWA alleged that AT&T has cut 12,000 call center jobs in the United States since 2011, opting instead to contract with third-party companies in other countries.

"This contract shows that wireless workers like me will no longer put up with companies that squeeze workers then use the profits to reward CEOs and wealthy shareholders instead of giving us our fair share of the productivity we bring to our communities and country," said Brandon Beck, an AT&T Mobility retail worker in San Diego, California, in a statement announcing the deal. "We have successfully fought back together against increased sales pressure, reduced pay and the frustration of outsourced and offshored call centers. We can breathe easier knowing the service to our customers will be better and our future will be brighter. Quality jobs are here to stay and grow.”

The contract covers over 21,000 AT&T wireless workers in 36 states, and it will remain in effect until Feb. 12, 2021.