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17,000 AT&T Technicians Go On Strike Amid Contract Dispute

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AT&T U-Verse customers in Nevada and California might find it hard to schedule an appointment with a company technician, after an estimated 17,000 workers walked off the job today in those states amid an ongoing contract dispute.

Unionized workers who are part of the Communications Workers of America, District 9 haven’t had a contract for almost a year, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Workers walked off the job starting at 6 a.m. today, claiming they’re being asked to do the work of higher-paid employees without equal compensation: Technicians who usually install and maintain U-Verse TV service are also required to work on the cables, hardware, and other infrastructure used to provide landline phone service, the workers say.

Union members are also upset by the closure of AT&T’s U.S. call centers in favor of hiring overseas workers, and the erosion of health benefits.

“While AT&T is extremely profitable, the company has become disconnected from the day to day issues facing workers and customers,” the union said in a statement to DSLReports. “Despite the financial success, the company is asking its workers to do more for less — keeping them from their families with unpredictable overtime, undercutting pay and advancement, offshoring good jobs, and pushing more healthcare costs onto employees. At the same time, customers are paying increasingly higher bills to AT&T for essential services.”

It’s unclear if the strike will affect service for AT&T’s landline customers.

AT&T disputes the claims, and says a walkout isn’t in “anybody’s best interests,” but adds that the company is working in good faith toward a new contract for wireline employees in those states.

“We’re very prepared to continue serving customers,” an AT&T spokesman told Consumerist. “We’re a customer service company and we plan for all contingencies, whether related to weather, natural disasters, work stoppages or any other factors.”

Despite claims to the contrary, AT&T maintains that it is a “union-friendly” employer. The company says it has the most full-time, union-represented employees in America, and that it has reached 28 labor agreements since 2015 covering “nearly 123,000 employees.”

AT&T also wants to stress to consumers that this strike does not involve the company’s wireless service.

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