AT&T and CWA Union agree to extend deadline to agree to new contract
LEBANON, VA - UPDATE: The Communication Workers of American Union and AT&T have agreed to extend their current contract while negotiations on a new deal continue.
By 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, more than 21,000 AT&T employees nationwide, including hundreds in our area, could be working without a contract.
"These are great jobs down here in rural Southwest Virginia," Chuck Simpson, the President of the Communication Workers of American Union's Local 2204 Chapter tells News 5. "They're good paying jobs with benefits and we want to keep it that way."
Dozens of members of the CWA marched through downtown Lebanon on Saturday, saying they want the world to know about the on-going negotiations between the company and the union.
"The company realizes we're mobilizing, being treated unfairly," Johnny Lyttle, a CWA Union Representative says. "We deserve a middle class status working for a multi-billion dollar company."
We reached out to AT&T about the negotiations, and a company spokesman sent us a statement saying in part:
"The contract CWA leaders are threatening to strike over covers good paying U.S. jobs averaging nearly $70,000 a year and benefits."
The spokesperson also says, "we're not proposing to cut anyone's pay or take away."
"Strike is the last ting we want to do," Simpson says. "Strike is the last thing the company wants I'm sure. But across all the footprints, about 21,000 employees, about 93 percent voted to strike if needed.
Last spring, the CWA was in a similar contract battle with Verizon. That dispute resulted in a 45 day strike. Simpson tells News 5 that striking again may be the only way to get what the workers want.
"If that's what it takes to keep what they have and garnish a fair contract, not face a loss of jobs, loss of contracts, loss of retirement, then that's what we'll do."
The AT&T Spokesman tells us negotiations between the two sides are expected to continue up until the midnight deadline.