By Jennifer Huffman
Approximately 45 AT&T U-verse technicians at the Napa AT&T yard were asked to leave work Wednesday after they came in wearing union-themed stickers.
According to AT&T technician Larry Dudley, managers told the workers if they wore the stickers, they would not be allowed to work.
“We said, no, we are not going to take them off,” Dudley said.
The sticker has a traffic sign shape printed with the words “Keep AT&T off the healthcare low road.” It refers to employee health care plans currently under contract negotiation.
The workers have been wearing union-themed stickers before and after their contract expired this April, Dudley said.
The company’s contract with about 40,000 unionized workers nationwide expired April 7. AT&T is seeking pension and health care concessions from its workers.
Honking and cheering in solidarity, more AT&T workers returned to the Napa yard by midday Wednesday, bringing the group size to about 80.
AT&T managers remained inside the building while the workers milled around the parking lot.
“They want us to take concessions but the president of AT&T gets million-dollar bonuses,” Ken Kidwell, AT&T employee said. “Our customers are important to us but so are our families and health care.”
Carol Whichard, president of Communications Workers of America local 9404, said the Napa yard was the only AT&T site under what she called a “lockout” Wednesday.
“I’m surprised they are going to the extreme of actually locking people off the job when these guys stand ready to work,” Whichard said.
On a normal day, the technicians might complete 60 to 70 jobs around Napa, Sonoma and as far away as Benicia. There will be far fewer installations or repairs completed Wednesday because of the lockout, the technicians said.
Dudley said they hoped affected customers would be notified.
Steven Leebert, manager of network services at the Napa yard, declined to be interviewed, referring questions to AT&T corporate offices.
“This is not a lockout,” AT&T spokesman Marty Richter wrote in an email. “Some technicians were sent home today when they refused to remove inappropriate stickers or buttons from their clothing before leaving the yard to work in and around customers’ homes and businesses. Technicians who come to work appropriately without the offending button or sticker will be welcomed back,” Richter said.
“We are continuing to negotiate with the union and remain committed to working together with them to bargain a fair contract that will allow us to continue to provide and protect high quality middle-class careers for our employees,” he said.
“It’s not about the little sticker,” Dudley said. “It’s about sticking together.”