Amid stalled contract talks, hundreds of AT&T landline employees in the Sacramento area walked off the job Friday, part of a protest spread among 18,000 workers in California and Nevada.
The one-day walkout was by Communications Workers of America union members who work primarily on AT&T's customer service, installation and maintenance crews for landlines.
"We don't have an actual read on how many are out, but I would say a large percentage of our members participated," said Libby Sayre, area director for CWA District 9, which covers California, Nevada and Hawaii.
Locally, CWA Local 9431 President Michael Davis said about 175 members reported for work at various AT&T maintenance yards and installation sites, then walked off the job at 9:30 a.m. That's most of his local's 200 members in Auburn, Grass Valley, Lincoln, Marysville, Rocklin and Yuba City.
In Sacramento, Lupe Mercado, president of Local 9421, said about 90 percent of 1,700 members walked off the job.
An AT&T spokesman had no definitive count of how many employees in both states left their workplaces.
The union called the walkout a one-day action designed to get the company's attention amid deadlocked contract talks. It said the trigger was a memo sent this week by a company executive to some CWA employees that implied union activity could lead to a loss of customers and jobs.
"We've been working 60 days without a contract the last thing (employees) feel they need or deserve is finger-pointing," said Sayre. "We're still far apart at the table and things like this don't help."
CWA and AT&T officials have been negotiating for more than two months, since the union's current contract expired April 7.
According to CWA officials, the company is offering a less-than-1-percent annual raise over three years; no paid sick leave; and a boost in employee contributions to health care coverage to 38 percent, from 10 to 12 percent.
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter in St. Louis, said, "It's our policy not to discuss proposals on the table. (Employees) have great wages and benefits and they'll continue to be."
He said the average AT&T network technician makes $133,900 in wages and benefits annually; the average call center employee $107,000.
But CWA Local 9421's executive vice president, Robert Longer, called those amounts a "gross misrepresentation."
He said the highest paid network technician in the Sacramento area makes around $82,000 in pay and benefits.
CWA officials said their members are expected to return to work starting today. Both sides said negotiations should resume shortly.