AT&T to close Portland office; CWA strike eyed

In response to a round of layoffs at telecommunications giant AT&T, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) called for a nationwide strike vote Dec. 14.

In Portland, CWA Local 7901 planned an informational picket that day at the AT&T building downtown at 819 SW Oak.

Results of the strike vote were not available as this issue of the Northwest Labor Press went to press. If workers vote to authorize the union's national Executive Board to call a strike, AT&T's entire union workforce could walk out in the next few months, said Madelyn Elder, president of Local 7901. The strike is not about wages - CWA's contract with AT&T doesn't expire until 2002. Rather, this strike would be an unfair labor practice strike - the union accuses AT&T of violating its collective bargaining agreement and U.S. labor law by failing to honor a neutrality agreement and failing to negotiate over the closure of several units.

On Jan. 18, the company has slated closure of its Portland customer service office, putting some 94 employees out of work, some of whom had been with the company over 25 years. Temporary workers in Dallas, Texas, will perform the work currently done by the Portland employees, who were given two weeks' notice that they could keep their jobs if they moved to Dallas by Jan. 3. There was no guarantee those jobs would stay in Dallas.

The company ignored a November petition signed by 84 of the Portland workers appealing to the company to keep the office open and detailing numerous advantages and cost savings in doing so. In effect the relocation is a de-unionization, as the company is closing an office represented by CWA and moving the work to a non-union shop in a right-to-work state. In the last three months, AT&T has eliminated over 1,000 jobs in Atlanta, Georgia; Davenport, Iowa; and Wyoming.

Meanwhile, the company has resisted organizing efforts at its newly acquired TCI and Paragon cable operations, in violation of a hard-fought neutrality agreement in its union contract, Elder said.

December 17, 1999 issue

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