Union says it met with AT&T on third day of strike in Southeast

CWA says Monday discussion “intense” as AT&T downplays impact of walkout

More than 20,000 AT&T workers remained on strike throughout the southeast on Monday, while the company minimized the impact of the unexpected walk-out.

Members of the Communication Workers of America – including 4,000 in Georgia – went on strike against the telecommunications giant at midnight Friday, charging AT&T with unfair labor practices and bargaining in bad faith.

The CWA said the two sides met on Monday and that discussions were "intense." It was the first meeting since Aug. 20, according to the union.

The workers' four-year contract with AT&T expired Aug. 3. Workers had previously authorized a strike, but both sides had signaled a willingness to compromise and even late last week there were no signs that a walk-out was coming.

The call to strike came late Friday after talks stalled. Union officials said the negotiations were pointless because AT&T had sent negotiators with no authority to make the decisions needed for a new contract.

The company responded with a statement saying it was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision and rejected the charges.

“The company has reached, and union members have voted to ratify, 20 fair agreements since 2017 covering more than 89,000 employees,” AT&T said in a statement. “We strongly disagree with the union’s claims of unfair labor practices. Our bargaining team is negotiating this contract with CWA leaders in the same way we have successfully done with dozens of other CWA contracts over the years.”

The company noted in its statement Monday that the strike involved fewer than 8% of its employees.

Company spokesman Marty Richter said Monday AT&T remained ready to bargain.

The workers on strike across nine states are technicians, customer service representatives and others who install, maintain and support the company's landline and internet line services. Since the walkout started, the company has relied on managers, supervisors and executives to keep the system running.

But AT&T has acknowledged that most of that effort is aimed at maintenance and emergency repairs. Most new installations are being postponed.

Neither side released information about plans for meeting again later this week.

“We don’t really know how long this will go,” said Beth Allen, a CWA spokeswoman. “We are prepared to stay out as long as it takes.”

The Dallas-based company has annual revenue of about $170 billion a year. It includes the remnants of BellSouth, which for more than two decades was the largest of the seven regional phone companies.