courtesy of Local 3108
Strikers at 1501 S .Semoran Blvd in Orlando.
As more than 20,000 AT&T workers strike across the southeast United States
, at least 400 of them are joining picket lines in Central Florida.
Hundreds have been protesting at nine Central Florida sites for the wire line telecommunications network since Saturday, said Steve Wisniewski, president of the Local 3108, the Orlando-based union. Eight of the picketing sites are in Orlando and one is in Lake Mary.
The union, Communications Workers of America (CWA), called for the strike due to alleged "unfair labor practices." While union officials did not discuss numbers, communications director Beth Allen said their main grievance is that the representatives AT&T has been sending to the bargaining table do not have the authority to make decisions.
She said the company had not been bargaining in good faith, a claim echoed by Wisniewski.
"We're going to continue this unfair labor practice strike until AT&T sends people that can bargain the contract and make decisions," Wisniewski said. "It's not about the benefits. It's not about the pay. It’s not about any of that stuff. It’s about having the respect and the dignity to have people that can make decisions."
Jim Kimberly, an AT&T spokesman, said "we strongly disagree with the union's claim of unfair labor practices." As for their method of bargaining, he said the company is using the same negotiation practices it has in the past years.
“A strike is in no one’s best interest. We remain ready to sit down with union leaders to negotiate a new, improved contract for our employees...We listen, engage in substantive discussions and share proposals back and forth until we reach agreement," Kimberly said in an emailed statement.
“That’s why we’re surprised and disappointed that union leaders would call for a strike at this point in the negotiations, particularly when we’re offering terms that would help our employees – some of whom average from $121,000 to $134,000 in total compensation – be even better off."
Wisniewski, in response, said "it’s comical, it’s frustrating they throw out these numbers." The average employee isn't making $130,000 a year, Wisniewski said.
Politicians have shown support of the workers at the local and national level. U.S. Rep. Darren Soto D-Orlando, came out to a local picket line, megaphone in hand, to give a pep talk to workers and lead a few chants.
"It's going to take days, it's going to take nights, it's going to take getting people's attention," Soto said. "We stand together. United we stand, divided we fall. Let's get this done."
State Rep. Carlos G. Smith, D-Orlando, retweeted the union in solidarity, meanwhile presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren tweeted out support of the union as well.
Here's a list of the Central Florida AT&T work centers with picketers:
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- 7900 Mandarin Dr Orlando FL 32819
- 1227 Division Ave Orlando FL 32805
- 6021 S Rio Grande Ave Orlando FL 32809
- 450 N Goldenrod Rd Orlando FL 32807
- 6621 S Orange Ave Orlando FL 32809
- 1501 S Semoran Blvd Orlando FL 32807
- 12150 Research Pkwy Orlando FL 32826
- 520 Kerry Dr Orlando FL 32808
- 500 Technology Park Lake Mary FL