Thousands of AT&T Inc. employees walked off the job Friday afternoon, starting a three-day protest to demand more protections for retail workers, call-center staffers and technicians.
The strikers include as many as 21,000 AT&T wireless workers, including those manning retail stores. The Communications Workers of America union said landline workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut, and DirecTV technicians in California and Nevada would also join the grievance strike.
"We will continue working hard to serve our customers," said AT&T spokesman Marty Richter, who declined to estimate potential store closures but said the company will "be open for business."
He said the contracts at issue Friday cover a small portion of the company's 265,000-person workforce. CWA represents about 150,000 of them.
Landline workers in California and Nevada picketed for a day in March to protest work rules for some in-home technicians and moves to replace U.S. call-center jobs with contractors hired overseas. The union highlighted the outsourcing issue again Friday, noting that AT&T has cut 12,000 U.S. call-center jobs since 2011.
AT&T is no stranger to labor disputes, though walkouts affecting its stores are rare. AT&T said the stoppage is slated to end at midnight Sunday.
The strike comes at a difficult time for AT&T's wireless business, which has faced intense pressure since the start of the year from aggressive competitors and apathetic customers. The company said in April it would stop giving investors annual revenue estimates partly because shoppers were waiting longer to buy new smartphones.
Wireless service still powers the lion's share of AT&T's profits as the market for fixed telephone lines and satellite service wanes. "We're really the heart of the company," said Mark Davis, an AT&T Mobility worker in Washington, D.C.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 19, 2017 15:57 ET (19:57 GMT)