Area lawmakers weigh in on ATT labor dispute
HIGGINS: Both sides need to negotiate deal that protects jobs and high quality public service.
By Don Glynn Don.email@example.com
Area lawmakers at the federal and local levels have renewed their concerns over the ongoing AT&T contract dispute with some 20,000 wireless workers in the communications industry.
The Communications Workers of America (CWA), the union directly impacted by the impasse, contends that more than half of the employees work for the company's wireless business. Primarily in call centers and retail stores, many of those employees have been without a contract for five months. The union has argued that AT&T is sending call-center jobs overseas and channeling retail jobs to so-called authorized dealers not owned by the company and where wages and benefits are lower.
Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman, says the company has offered the wireless workers wage and pension increases. He added that AT&T sales workers were being well paid by industry standards. According to PayScale, a company that tracks salary data, the workers were paid an average of $68,000 in annual pay and benefits, twice the amount for retail workers as a whole. Richter also noted that AT&T had successfully negotiated contracts for nearly 130,000 workers since 2015.
The strong support runs the gamut from congressmen and state senators to county legislators and town officials. All of them through a vigorous petition drive and letters charge AT&T with extensive outsourcing and off-shoring good American jobs. At last report, AT&T is the nation's largest telecom company with more than 200,000 employees.
U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Niagara Falls, stated in a letter Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T: "I appreciate the volatile nature of the communications industry and the intensive capital investments to keep pace with modern technologies, but I think that your ability to achieve short and long-term business objectives is heavily reliant on maintaining a skilled and well-educated workforce." Higgins added that he hoped both sides in the dispute would arrive at a reasonable bargaining agreement that protects good jobs and high quality service to the public.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz told Stephenson that families in his county and across the nation "need successful corporations like AT&T to be as mindful of your treatment of their communities as you are of your bottom line. In the case of your wireless workforce, it's clear that you can do both."
Three Niagara County lawmakers also joined forces with the public officials pressing AT&T to reconsider its bargaining position and work directly with the union negotiating team to reach an agreement to protect jobs and ensure the company's high quality service to the public. The trio included legislators Dennis F. Virtuoso, 6th District; Jason A. Zona, 5th District; and Mark J. Grozio, 3rd District.
The Communication Workers of America-Local 1122 was a prime mover in organizing the area support for the current drive. The union is based at 3775 Genesee St., Buffalo.
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