Union pickets at AT&T call center for higher wages

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Union workers in Ocean Springs joined others in Atlanta, Raleigh, and Memphis who picked up their picket signs. Members of the Communication Workers of America held an information picket outside the AT&T call center.

In February, a contract between AT&T and CWA expires. That means both sides will have to come to the bargaining table soon on issues like pay. Union members say they want the company to know they're not happy with what's been offered in the past.

AT&T workers stood on Highway 90 asking the community to stand with them. One person held up a sign that read: "End Wage Slavery." They said typically during contract renewal negotiations the company offers pay raises between a one percent and 1.5 percent over the life of the contract. Union members said these days one percent doesn't go very far.

"With the economy the way it is right now one percent is really not enough to make it," said Jessica Brock, CWA member. "Especially with that one percent. Taking all the taxes. That right there is going to cover half of it."

With a little more than 530 members, CWA chapter 3519 is the largest chapter in the state. The union wants the new contract with AT&T to include a 5 percent pay increase over the next four years. It's something CWA members say they've earned.

"For the jobs that we do it is a lot of work," said union member Ganece Darden. "I feel with what we're doing anywhere from taking care of your wireless phone, troubleshooting it, assisting with your bill. Also going into land lines and taking care of those accounts as well. We deserve that."

Union members said overall public support for unions has decreased in over the years and they know the reason why.

"I think the backlash comes because people are misinformed. Union families we try inform our friends, our relatives," Darden said, "I think it's a lot of misinformation and miscommunication about unions because unions are founded on good family working principles. I think the backlash is due to misinformation about what a union actually stands for. "

In a statement AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter said, "AT&T is the largest employer of full-time union labor, and the only major U.S. wireless company with a union workforce. We're proud of our longstanding cooperative relationship with our unions, including the CWA and the IBEW. We'll be bargaining early next year a new labor contract covering more than 11,000 AT&T Mobility employees in nine states. We're committed to bargaining a contract that will continue to provide and protect good middle class careers for our employees."

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