LIHUE — AT&T’s advertising slogan is “Mobilizing Your World.” On Friday and this weekend, the company’s employees are mobilizing in protest.
Across the nation, almost 40,000 AT&T employees are on strike over contract disputes. Kauai’s only AT&T store in Lihue has joined the three-day strike. All 13 of the store’s sales employees held signs outside of the store at different times Friday as horns honked from passing cars to show support.
“The company is continuing to close call centers and send jobs offshore to at least eight countries at lower wages. So basically, they’re giving people in other countries our jobs,” said store employee Whitney Miguel. “They’ve been in negotiations for a while now and AT&T hasn’t budged, so it’s come to this. We just want to keep our jobs in the United States.”
Among the union’s major issues with the contract situation are concerns over benefits and pay, particularly attendance policies.
“They don’t allow the doctor’s note. You have to have a really, really good reason,” said Leah Dana, another employee. “It’s a point off, regardless. We work hard, and we want to be compensated as well.”
AT&T Mobility has outsourced 60 percent of its retail stores to low-wage third parties, according to Communications Workers of America, which AT&T workers are members of.
“We are fighting for pay, wages and better medical because of rising healthcare costs. We’re keeping in touch with the union leaders on the other islands. Our main one is on Oahu,” said Brooke Aguinaldo, sales support representative and union mobilizer for Kauai’s AT&T location, who called for the strike on Kauai.
“They’re outsourcing jobs to other countries. (The strike) is just to be fair to us. We got people honking, we even got people bringing us refreshments — it’s been hot out here,” Miguel said. “But a lot of honkers and people waving. We’ve gotten a lot of spouses and family members come by to support us as well. We’re fighting for our rights, basically.”
AT&T released a statement in response to the nationwide strikes:
“A strike is in no one’s best interest, and it’s baffling as to why union leadership would call one when we’re offering terms in which our employees in these contracts – some of whom average from $115,000 to $148,000 in total compensation — will be better off financially.”
Dana and Aguinaldo both said the union has been trying to work with AT&T over the past few months, but Dana said that they’ve had enough.
“There’s no hostility. We’re one big good family here,” she said. “But employees need to have a share here, too.”