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Workers protest AT&T

Union pickets after company bars use of some buttons

Posted: April 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Communications Workers of America Labor 9003 union workers picket on the freeway overpass at Lyons Avenue and the Interstate 5 in Newhall on Monday.

 

More than half a dozen AT&T Corp. workers picketed the communication firm’s Newhall office Monday, protesting being sent home for refusing to remove controversial buttons.

The workers, members of the Communications Workers of America Local 9003, could be seen by passing motorists on Interstate 5 around noon Monday.

The CWA workers have been without a contract since April 7.

According to their union representative, company managers effectively “locked them out” Monday when they refused to allow workers who insisted on wearing union buttons.

Company officials, however, say the workers were told to remove only buttons that displayed the acronym “WTF.”

“Ask any 10 people in your newsroom what ‘WTF’ stands for and you’ll know why they were asked not to wear them,” said John Britton, local AT&T spokesman. “We allowed them to wear the buttons in the garage but told them it was inappropriate to wear them when interfacing with customers.

“We had some who refused to take them off so we sent them home without pay,” Britton said.

According to union officials, the “WTF” stands for the union’s current slogan “Where’s The Fairness?” in reference to ongoing contract talks.

“Our workers were told at a couple of locations, ‘Take off your buttons or go home,’” said T. Santora, president of CWA 9003, which includes all of Los Angeles County.

Similar protests were held at four other regional AT&T offices Monday in Palmdale, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Montrose, Santora said.

“We are considering this a lockout,” he said.

Both sides agree that workers have been without a contract since April 7.

The priority issue for contract negotiators representing the workers is health care, Santora said.

At the most recent talks, union officials conceded to pay a portion of their health care premiums, but the company responded by asking that they pay a larger cut of their premiums, Santora said.

Britton, speaking for the telecommunications giant, said contract talks are ongoing.

“Both sides are continuing with talks in good faith,” he said.

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