Fourth-generation telecommunications worker says AT&T squandering a legacy

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By trying to slash health care benefits, AT&T is breaking its trust with the nearly 100,000 workers who have made the company profitable even in these tough economic times, Communications Worker Ed Davis said. Davis, a member of CWA Local 7250, should know. He’s a fourth-generation telecommunications worker. His great-grandfather and grandfather were linesmen for the Bell System whose parent company was AT&T. They helped the company grow through the Great Depression and World War II. His mother was an operator and he is a customer sales and service specialist.

Before he had a full-time job, Davis was a union member. Members of his mom’s union made him an honorary CWA member when he walked the picketline with them back in 1983. On Thursday, Davis, with AT&T for 22 years, participated in informational picketing outside the company’s downtown Minneapolis office.

“My ancestors helped build this company,” he said. “But all (the company) seems to care about is more profit each year.”

AT&T posted profits of $12.9 billion for 2008 and is on track for solid growth this year, company executives said. Despite this success, AT&T is seeking to cut health care benefits by shifting even more costs to workers and to retirees on fixed incomes.

The union wants the company to participate in finding a national solution to the health care crisis – not continue to push more and more of the health care burden onto workers.

“Our nation is on the edge of critical changes in health care. To accomplish this, we need continued leadership from companies like AT&T . . .” said CWA President Larry Cohen.

AT&T employees across the country have been working without contracts since several expired last weekend. CWA members have authorized their executive board to call a strike if necessary.

The downtown Minneapolis call centers employ about 320 members of Local 7250 and 120 members of Local 7200. The union is conducting on-the-job actions, Local 7250 President Shari Wojtowicz said.

From Monday through Thursday, union members are wearing red to work to show solidarity, she said. And every hour during the workday – at the top of the hour – the workers use plastic clickers for five minutes. The constant clicking sound continues as they work and has gotten the attention of management.

AT&T workers are frustrated but determined, Wojtowicz said. “They feel like they are just numbers to the company.”

On the informational picketline, members chanted, “No contract – we strike!”

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