(24 Aug 2019 – (2:09 min) Striking CWA Labor Union Picket Line)
On Friday night at midnight, over 20,000 workers in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee walked off the job at AT&T.
The strike broke out with little advanced notice as the trade union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), sought to force workers to stay on the job three weeks past the contract expiration on August 3. A Thursday statement from CWA admitted mass worker anger: “The phones at the District 3 Office have not stopped ringing today. Members are calling to say that they want a new contract.” And will strike to get that contract.
The largest strike in the American South in recent history captures a growing mood of militancy among workers. Images of black and white workers manning pickets together in the deep south send an important message: The unity of the international working class—no matter the race, gender or nationality—is a strategic necessity in the struggle for social equality.
AT&T Inc. is one of the world’s malefactors of great wealth. In its ruthless exploitation of workers and customers and its strangling command of governments and world markets, the corporation epitomizes the rapaciousness of global capitalism.
The corporation is demanding an unprecedented austerity contract that would pave the way for mass firings and force workers to labor under conditions not seen since the 1920s.
AT&T wants the power to lay off workers regardless of seniority for attendance and performance-related pretenses. It seeks to implement a mandatory, 24/7 standby program where workers will be called to work on irregular schedules with little notice, resembling the “shape-up” system of the early 20th century. Wire technicians would be forced to work more complex and dangerous jobs with no pay increase, call center workers would be monitored with every breathe they take, and the corporation is reportedly demanding workers pay more for healthcare.
The corporation’s 2018 gross profit was $91.3 billion, each dollar stolen through the exploitation of its labor force. The corporation controls 34 percent of US wireless subscriptions. The domination of the US mobile phone market by only a handful of companies means that Americans pay the highest prices anywhere in the world for mobile data, according to a study published last year.
AT&T exists to funnel billions into the pockets of its aristocratic shareholders, with dividends per share increasing from under $0.50 per share in 1994 to nearly $2.00 per share today. The corporation spent $693 million on share buybacks in 2017 alone. Its CEO, Randall Stephenson, made $29 million in 2018.
Like the robber barons of the gilded age, AT&T dominates the government, owns the politicians and writes the rules governing its own “regulation.”
According to Opensecrets.org, the corporation contributed $11.8 million to candidates in the 2016 election campaign, including $1.5 million to pay for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and $4.2 million for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
All part of the cost of doing business. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner did not violate anti-trust law. Corporate tax cuts implemented by Donald Trump in 2017 netted the corporation $3 billion in annual tax savings, in perpetuity. Since the tax cuts went into effect, AT&T has laid off nearly 25,000 workers.