AT&T technicians, always on the streets, are reporting a spike in violence while on the job. "We'll be working on a neighborhood box and someone will come up and jump you," said Willis Ward, vice president and chair of Local 9404's health and safety committee.
Several years ago, a CWA technician who witnessed a shooting became a target after he was seen talking with police following the incident. Soon after, gun-toting friends of the shooter started following AT&T vans.
Leaders from CWA Local 9404 and 9415 pushed AT&T management for a workplace safety agreement to help protect members from street violence. Now, technicians who want to work with a partner must be given one, and if workers have good reason for concern in certain areas, they can refuse an assignment without fear of retaliation or suspension. Work is limited to morning hours in defined areas of high crime and monitored during other times of day.
"We know this isn't isolated to our area, but we wanted to set a standard for safety that we hope can be expanded around the state," Ward said.
The dangerous conditions continue to exist, and CWA is pressing AT&T to fully honor and implement these provisions, which now are limited to installation and repair divisions serving Richmond and Oakland, Calif.
"The locals saw a problem, identified a solution and reached an agreement that helps safeguard our members and the community," said District 9 Vice President Jim Weitkamp. "We're continuing to fight for full implementation and safeguards for all workers."