AT&T West unionized employees working as contract talks continue

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Damian Dovarganes/AP

In this March 6, 2012 photo, an AT&T technician works on fiber optic cables used for the expansion of AT&T U-verse Internet service in the Chinatown neighborhood in Los Angeles. Unionized AT&T West workers rejected their contract Thursday. It’s possible the workers may strike Saturday.

AT&T West workers in California and Nevada reported to work as contract negotiations are continuing with AT&T.

The roughly 18,000 workers are represented by the Communications Workers of America and union leaders said they would decide on a day-to-day basis whether to strike after they meet with AT&T.

Workers rejected a contract last week over wages and benefits, said T Santora, president of an L.A.-based union under CWA. The contract would have given them a raise, but Santora said the wages for U-verse employees would not match what Verizon pays its workers.

“We’ll fight hard to get the improvements we need at the bargaining table, but if we can’t there will be a strike,” said Jim Weitkamp, vice president and elected leader of the district that represents the AT&T West employees.

If a strike happens, Santora warned it could lead to longer wait times for customers that need help with their TV, Internet or landline phones. The CWA represents AT&T West workers that serve in a variety of jobs from customer service representatives to technicians.

But AT&T said its prepared for a strike and has a plan in place. The company said it has a contingency workforce of well-trained managers and vendors.

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