American Telephone and Telegraph Co. union workers spent their lunch hour Wednesday pacing the Federal Building plaza in a "Take a Stand" rally to show support for their national union's bargaining team.
"What you're asking for is nothing more than you deserve," said Ed Mayne, state AFL-CIO president.The picket line included about 50 workers, most wearing red T-shirts to highlight their cause, while similar walks were being staged nationwide. The rallies marked the opening day of AT&T's bargaining talks with its unions, and only the second round since the massive Bell system was disconnected in 1984.
Both company and union officials recognized the 50-year history of labor negotiations. "At no point does AT&T believe we have had stronger relationships with the union than going into this critical negotiation," said Herb Linnen, director of media relations for AT&T in Washington, D.C.
He said the company respected the union's push to galvanize national membership. "We recognize the union's interest in developing solidarity in their ranks. That's to be expected. We have no problem with that."
Bill Thornburg, a Communications Workers of America representative who oversees Utah and Idaho, agreed the picket was a mobilizing tactic. "We also want to show the public that the labor movement is alive in Utah."
The CWA represents 180,000 telephone operators, technicians and clerical employees, including 1,800 local members. Their current three-year contract expires May 27.
Union leaders say the company needs to share its $2 billion in annual profits with line workers, whose salaries haven't kept pace with the cost of living. They also are asking for job security, as they contend 78,000 workers have been laid off, at the same time management ranks swelled by 13,000 positions.