By Phil Downing
AT&T is the largest cell phone service provider in the United States. It has assets worth $268 billion and it had revenues of $123 billion in 2009. AT&T has 70 million subscribers and the largest market share of any phone service company.
All of that cash gives AT&T a lot of power, but so do its employees. AT&T has 282,720 employees, many of which belong to a union. AT&T, the only phone service provider in the United States with a unionized work phone, is unionized through the Communication Workers of America (CWA).
The CWA began as the National Federation of Telephone Workers in 1938 representing 145,000 employees in the telecommunications industry. CWA is currently the largest communication and media union in the world with 700,000 members. The has been battling it out with corporations since WW1 for media workers. AT&T entered its first contract with CWA in 1946.
Ever since their first contract, the CWA has had an important relationship with AT&T. The CWA was involved in multiple strikes against AT&T in the 1940’s through the 1970s. These strikes against AT&T tackled issues over pay increases, healthcare and discrimination. The CWA won a major settlement against AT&T in 1973, in which AT&T paid over $45 million as back wages to women and minority employees.
Recently, over 11,000 AT&T employees threatened to strike due to low wages. Upon threats of a strike, AT&T agreed to a four-year contract with CWA that will give employees a 10 percent increase in wages.
Although the company will always have power over the worker, AT&T employees’ ability to organize themselves in a union has paid off. By unionizing, workers have stopped AT&T from treating workers unfairly and has lead to increased wages and benefits.