RALEIGH – A “handshake agreement” between negotiators led to 20,000 striking AT&T employees going back to work on Wednesday as talks continue on reaching a formal agreement.
“I can confirm that striking wireline employees have returned to work in the Southeast region,” AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter says.
“We’ve been working with the union’ s bargaining team and we’ve been committed throughout the process to reaching a fair agreement. Out of respect for the bargaining process we don’t have anything else to add at this time.”
The Associated Press reported that the Communications Workers of America union, which represents thre strikers, descrbied a “handshake agreement” as key to the strike being called off.
The “handshake” took place after AT&T sent representatives with authority to bargain over a new contract to talk to union officials, the AP reported. The union had protested that AT&T was sending officials without the proper authority.
The workers who walked off are technicians and customer service representatives for AT&T’s “wireline” home and business internet and phone division in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The company’s cellphone division was not affected.
“The company has reached, and union members have voted to ratify, 20 fair agreements since 2017 covering more than 89,000 employees,” Richter added. “That includes five similar agreements reached in late June and early July and ratified by CWA members. We look forward to doing the same here.
“It’s important to note that the Southeast contract covers fewer than 8 percent of our employees This involves wireline employees in nine Southeastern states. Our Mobility/wireless employees are not affected.”
Workers have yet to be informed about terms of the deal.
“I’m sure that will be released as soon as it’s drafted up,” Jeremy Cleaver, 49, a wire technician based out of the company’s Chapel Hill return center, said on Wednesday.
Workers will then have the chance to vote on the final proposal before it’s approved.