Union Issues

AT&T Wireless Workers Win Industry-Defining Gains in New Agreement

United as the Communications Workers of America, 21,000 AT&T wireless workers across 36 states & DC win first-ever guaranteed call center work; 10.1% raise over four years; and unprecedented job security protections.


Over 21,000 AT&T wireless workers, who have been at the center of the telecom giant’s largest contract dispute to date, reached a precedent-setting tentative contract agreement today that rolls back the trends of offshoring and outsourcing and sets a new standard for wireless retail and call center jobs in America. United as Communications Workers of America (CWA) members, AT&T’s wireless workers are celebrating the landmark victory that caps nationwide protests and a three-day strike that shut down hundreds of stores across the country and marked the largest retail strike in U.S. history.

“AT&T wireless workers’ victory is a watershed moment, for themselves and their families, and for working people across the telecom sector who are fighting to keep good jobs in our communities,” said Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America. “Call center representatives, retail workers and techs from small towns and big cities joined together and refused to back down until they made good jobs at AT&T a reality. This contract affirms the power of working people everywhere to join together and establish a new standard for America’s retail and telecom jobs.” 

The four-year proposed agreement provides 10.1% in raises over the course of the contract and shifts $2,500 from commission to base pay for retail workers. Under the new agreement, AT&T wireless retail workers will be paid an average $19.20 per hour, about 74% more than the national average pay for retail workers. This comes as a recent report by the Center for Popular Democracy finds that only 8% of U.S. retail workers are paid at least $15/hour, have paid leave and full-time hours.

For the first time at any wireless company in the country, workers have won guaranteed customer service work at U.S. call centers, representing an 80% increase in the share of total call volume over the current levels. AT&T wireless workers have also won first-time job security protections that require AT&T to find them a new job if their call center or retail store closes. Combined with better, more stable pay and reduced intrusive surveillance at work, the proposed agreement dramatically improves the quality of workers’ lives on the job.

“For too long, corporations have been squeezing workers and taking away our prospects for good quality American jobs -- jobs that we can genuinely live on and that give us our fair share of the productivity we bring to our communities and country,” said Brandon Beck, an AT&T wireless retail worker in San Diego, CA. “This contract shows that wireless workers like me will no longer put up with this disturbing trend. We have successfully fought back together against increased sales pressure, reduced pay, and the frustration of outsourced and offshored call centers. We can breathe easier knowing the service to our customers will be better and our future will be brighter. Quality jobs are here to stay and grow.”

Over the last 11 months, workers mobilized in 36 states and DC – holding rallies and picket lines and demanding AT&T invest in its workforce, protect the basic promise of high-quality customer service, and reverse offshoring and outsourcing with a fair contract. In May, AT&T wireless workers escalated their fight and walked off the job in a 3-day strike, forcing AT&T to close hundreds of retail stores across the country.

“After joining together and going on strike, AT&T workers have won a historic contract that sets a bold precedent for workers in the telecom industry. The solidarity and persistence of our members pushed the company to agree to crucial protections like stronger job security for retail workers and greater fairness in evaluation and discipline procedures that put our members and their families on a path towards greater economic security,” said Dennis G. Trainor, Vice President of CWA District One. “Let this be a sign to all companies that put profits above workers: when we stand together, we win.”

As workers mobilized for a fair contract, they won multiple waves of support from elected officials. In November, 17 U.S. senators – including Merkley, Brown, Sanders and Warren – sent a letter to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson demanding the company reach a contract agreement that supports good jobs in wireless. In the fall, 314 elected officials – including 57 members of Congress – sent letters to Stephenson, voicing concern with the company stonewalling workers at the bargaining table.

“Unions are the biggest anti-poverty advocates in this country,” said Dorian Warren, President of the Center for Community Change Action and Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “This contract at AT&T bucks all trends in low-paying retail jobs because workers in CWA stood together to fight for what their families need to survive and what major corporations like AT&T can afford.”

All 21,000 AT&T wireless workers will be voting on the proposed agreement by January 12. Highlights from the new agreement include:

  • A guaranteed 80% increase in the portion of customer service calls handled exclusively by wireless workers who are CWA members;
  • First-ever job security language that guarantees a job for workers whose store or call center is closed or whose job title is eliminated;
  • $2,500 shifted from commission to base pay for 14,000 retail workers, making pay more stable;
  • Greater ability to use sick days without risk of discipline;
  • Limits on the types of monitoring and surveillance of retail and call center workers so that evaluation is fair and equitable;
  • Flat health insurance cost-sharing to ensure workers and their families do not pay more out of their own pockets;
  • Safety equipment for warehouse workers; and
  • Increase in on-call pay for technicians.

CWA has led the fight to expose the rampant outsourcing and offshoring of American jobs by companies like AT&T and is supporting wireless workers across the industry as they join together for good jobs and quality service. Earlier this month, CWA called on companies that employ its members to commit to a $4,000 pay increase should lower corporate tax rates pass through Congress – the amount that the Trump administration said would trickle down to workers under the plan. The agreement announced today follows the 2016 victory for nearly 40,000 Verizon workers who went on strike for 45 days and won a major contract that added 1,300 new call center jobs and reversed several other outsourcing initiatives that created new field technician jobs across the country.