4/21/08

AT&T denies workers a secret-ballot election

Employees at the new AT&T Customer Care Center in Davenport (IA) have voted to be represented by the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, the union president said Friday. Francis Giunta, the president of CWA Local 7110, said a majority of the call center employees agreed to unionize in a card-check drive that began Monday. In the first six hours of the union drive, CWA had received the required 50 percent plus one vote necessary for the workplace to have union representation. “It was almost unprecedented,” he said of the quick approval. In a card-check drive, employees vote “yes” or “no” for union representation on a union registration card.

He said the vote “tells me people understand the value of a union, the value of healthcare benefits and the value of a voice at work. And it tells me the labor unions are not a thing of the past.”

Giunta did not know how many of the center’s employees had voted in favor, but once the union is in place all the employees will be represented by the bargaining unit whether they do or do not join the union.

The AT&T employees will become part of Local 7110 and will be covered by an existing contract, which expires Feb. 7, 2009.

Across the nation, CWA and AT&T have a voluntary card-check and neutrality agreement.

“AT&T has a long-standing agreement with its unions that allows them to organize bargaining units wherever and whenever employees choose to join one of the unions,” Bob Beasley, AT&T spokesman, said.

The new $19.3 million call center at 5348 Elmore Circle eventually plans to employ between 500 and 600 employees. Giunta estimated the current employment at about 130. The center opened with 60 employees in January.

He said the next step is to have the American Arbitration Association certify the election results. He expects the authorization to be completed in about two weeks.

Local 7110 represents about 175 union members across Scott, Clinton, Dubuque and Jackson counties, including other AT&T facilities. Formerly a telecommunications union exclusively, Giunta said the union has branched out to include employees in the public sector, education and printing.

Locally, it represents AT&T technicians at a downtown Davenport facility, staff at the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency and area printing shops. It also represents AT&T employees in the retail stores that formerly owned Cingular.

While waiting for final authorization, he said CWA will be helping to educate the employees about benefit changes as well as training employees to be union stewards and leaders.

(qctimes.com)

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