AT&T Strike Closes Some Wireless Stores

Some AT&T (NYSE:T) wireless retail stores across the country were closed on Saturday as striking workers picketed outside. Reports came of sporadic store closings from Montana to Bangor, Maine. This was the first labor strike against the company in four years.

The Communications Workers of America represents the 21,000 wireless workers striking in 36 states and Washington, D.C. The workers’ contract expired in February. AT&T failed to meet a union-set deadline of Friday afternoon for a new agreement. Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1, said, “We have made every effort to bargain in good faith with AT&T, but have only been met with delays and excuses.”

AT&T is the largest telecom company in the country and brings in nearly $1 billion a month in profits. In statement Friday, AT&T addressed the strike, saying, “A strike is in no one’s best interest, and it’s baffling that union leadership would call one when we’re offering terms in which our employees in these contracts, some of whom average from $115,000 to $148,000 in total compensation, will be better off financially.”

The workers say AT&T’s contract offers to date have not been fair. The workers are asking for better wage increases, no increases in their healthcare contribution, and more protection against the outsourcing of their jobs. AT&T claims it has offered “generous” wage and pension benefit increases and healthcare benefits in line with what other unionized employees have seen as acceptable.

The strike is one of the largest in the U.S. in the past decade. The striking wireless workers have been joined by about 17,000 striking workers in AT&T’s traditional wireline telephone and Internet business in Nevada and California. The wireline workers have been working without a contract for over a year. The CWA says additional workers from the wireline business in Connecticut and the DirecTV unit in California are also on strike.

A seven-week strike by 36,500 Verizon workers last year inspired the AT&T workers to strike as well. The Verizon strike ended with workers getting a better deal than the company had been previously offering. The strike is expected to end Monday morning. The last AT&T labor strike, in 2012, only lasted two days.

This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, according to the union. Members of the Teamsters, American Federation of Teachers, and the AFL-CIO have expressed support for the strike. However, but most outlets remained open for business. AT&T said the “vast majority” of its stores were unaffected and a spokesman said, “We’re open for business.”