The local of the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers in Butte, Mont., wants its union brethren to boycott AT&T Broadband &
Internet Services as a tactic to compel the MSO to accede to union demands for a pension
plan for its members.
A spokesman for Local 44 in Butte said the union considered
a strike, but the cable operator shifted workers from other AT&T Broadband systems
into the market to cover the eventuality.
"We decided on the boycott last week. We've tried
all other avenues to get our workers a 401K or other pension plan equal with the other
workers," said Stan Dupree, business manager for the local.
An AT&T Broadband spokesman said the company was
surprised by the action since negotiations are ongoing with the bargaining unit, which
includes 22 service technicians in Butte and Missoula. The contract for the unit expired
Feb. 6, and union reps and the company have met five times since then, according to the
"We will continue business as usual," said Scott
Sobel, regional director of communications for AT&T Broadband. That includes
continuing to negotiate.
Dupree said his members want years-of-service recognition,
as well as a pension plan comparable with that enjoyed by inside employees such as
clerical and customer-service staff.
"They've never given us a viable reason" for
the lack of pension benefits, Dupree claimed, adding that the union has volunteered to
take a pay cut to get the benefit.
The acrimony peaked recently when one of the unit members,
who was also the shop steward, was fired, according to Dupree. "We'll pursue
that [with the National Labor Relations Board]. That was union animus," he added.
The IBEW has about 1,000 employees in Montana, whom the
union will ask to support the boycott. Further, the labor groups will seek national
sanctions through the AFL-CIO.
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