AT&T strike talks edging toward a deal, union says

Union and AT&T officials continued holding talks Tuesday evening in Atlanta. Bloomberg photo by Craig Warga.
Union and AT&T officials continued holding talks Tuesday evening in Atlanta. Bloomberg photo by Craig Warga.

Representatives of striking AT&T workers said Tuesday that they were optimistic about their talks with the company and raised the possibility of a settlement before the night is out.

Union negotiators from the Communication Workers of America planned to meet with AT&T officials Tuesday evening. The two sides engaged in many long hours of discussion Monday, according to a union web post.

The union was "able to have some constructive dialogue with AT&T," according to a statement posted on the CWA site.

“Yesterday, we all worked late into the night and we are prepared to settle negotiations,” the union statement said. “If the company is serious, we could settle the contract tonight.”

AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said the company was aware of the CWA's post. "We remain committed to reaching a fair agreement. Our bargaining team is working with the union, and we look forward to getting that done."

A day earlier, union leaders had described negotiations as "intense" and cautioned against thinking the strike would end quickly.

More than 20,000 workers in the Southeast have been on strike since midnight Friday as the CWA charged the huge company with bargaining in bad faith and engaging in unfair labor practices.

The union said it had filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that AT&T, which has $170 billion a year in revenues, had sent negotiators who had no authority to forge a deal.

The CWA’s four-year contract with the company expired on August 3. Union members have said they are most concerned about rising healthcare costs as well as job security.

If a deal is reached, employees could return to work the next day, according to Beth Allen, a CWA spokeswoman. However, “the plan for returning to work is negotiated with the company.”

The strikers are primarily technicians and customer service representatives in nine states. About 4,000 of those workers are in Georgia.

Since the workers walked out, their jobs have been filled by managers and supervisors. Company officials said they would give priority to urgent repairs and maintenance and likely wouldn’t handle new installations during the strike.

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