David Nokes is less than a year and a half from his anticipated retirement from AT&T, but the 35-year employee of the telecommunications company says he has more than himself to think about as his union’s strike entered its third day Monday.
“I’m just doing this for the younger guys,” said Nokes, 63, executive vice president of Local 510 of the Communications Workers of America.
About half of the 30 striking Greenwood workers were on the picket line Monday morning outside AT&T’s district office on West Park Avenue. A number of motorists honked their horns in support as they passed the sign-wielding strikers.
More than 20,000 employees of Dallas-based AT&T are involved in the walkout covering Mississippi and eight other Southern states. They include technicians, customer service representatives and others who maintain AT&T’s wired business and residential network in the region.
The union has claimed that AT&T is negotiating in bad faith on a new contract to replace the four-year agreement that ended Aug. 3. Talks reached an impasse last week when, according to the union, AT&T sent representatives who lacked the authority to make decisions in contract negotiations to meet with union officials.
“We’re just trying to get them to the bargaining table right now. ... they won’t talk to us,” said Mark White of Winona, one of the picketers on Park Avenue. A technician, White has worked for AT&T for 21 years.
Union and company officials last met in contract talks on Aug. 20. CWA has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against AT&T over the stalled negotiations. The company has denied the allegation.
“Our bargaining team is negotiating this contract with CWA leaders in the same way we have successfully done with other CWA contracts over the years,” an AT&T spokesperson told The Dallas Morning News. “We listen, engage in substantive discussions and share proposals back and forth until we reach agreement.”
The strike comes while AT&T is steadily losing wired customers and puts more emphasis — and resources — into its wireless business. White said that the company is eliminating this quarter 980 positions in its wired division across the nine states, including 83 in Mississippi.
The strike in Greenwood began slowly because of the weekend. There were only a handful of picketers on Saturday and even fewer on Sunday, but a larger contingent was out at 6:30 a.m. Monday. They stayed out until about noon, when most called it a day. They planned to be back Tuesday morning, the last day of the scheduled four-day walkout that Nokes said is designed to get the company’s attention.
“We just have to get something going. We’re hoping this will get it,” he said.
•Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.