CWA Local 4900 workers strike against AT&T

Steve Kellams holds up a sign as Communications Workers of America 4900 went on an Unfair Labor Practice Strike at noon on May 31.

ANDERSON — Local AT&T employees are back to work following a five-day strike against what their union claims are unfair labor practices.

Members of the Communications Workers of America voted to get back to work Wednesday after the communications giant began bargaining with a designated negotiating team approved by the union, said Beth Dubree, secretary-treasurer for the CWA Local 4900.

The strike began Friday, with local workers picketing near the corner of Eckhouse Street and Raible Avenue along with an estimated 14,000 other workers in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Tony Boles, Division 2 vice president for CWA Local 4900, said the strike was against “unfair labor practices,” in which he says AT&T bypassed elected union bargaining teams and instead tried to bargain directly with workers to sign a contract that expired in April.

The emails asked individuals to bargain with the company directly instead of going through an elected bargaining committee that existed before the contract expired.

In ending the strike, Dubree said union members felt confident AT&T had understood the need to work with the designated team.

“I would certainly hope they heard our voice,” she said. “What took place, that is absolutely tremendous and crazy and chaotic. We told them to stop bargaining with us.”

The strike began early Friday at a small garage in Indianapolis and quickly spread across the state.

“It all took place within a few hours," Dubree said. "That’s the world of social media. It doesn’t take long to spread around.”

Though many AT&T employees returned to work, members of CWA Local 4818 renewed their protest after they say a manager struck a union member with a bucket truck as he passed through the picket line.

According to police reports and eyewitness testimony, Jessie Reithels, a manager at AT&T's garage in Martinsville, cut through the picket line Monday morning and struck technician Scott Parkhurst with the tail end of a bucket truck.