CWA Puts Heat on AllTel For Squeezing Workers to Buy "Shrine to Itself"

It was a very hot day in Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 5, when the Jacksonville Jaguars played the Cincinnati Bengals at the newly-named "AllTel" stadium.

However, football fans attending the game had a chance to cool off - thanks to hand-held fans distributed during a massive mobilization as sports fans entered the stadium.

CWA's fans read: "We're hot over AllTel's treatment of employees."

One of the things that has got union members hot under the collar is that the company recently shelled out $6.2 million to rename the Jacksonville stadium in its honor.

Telecommunications Vice President T.O. Moses, who has been battling the company since last January for new contracts for various AllTel units, says some believe the company skimmed profits from employee benefits to subsidize the stadium name purchase.

Employee benefits are, indeed, a major item at CWA bargaining tables. Management wants to shift health care and medical costs onto the backs of workers, Moses said.

Moses and CWA Vice President Jimmy Smith of District 3, based in Atlanta, were joined by about 100 other CWA members and staff at the mobilization rally outside the Jacksonville stadium the day the Jaguars and Bengals met.

CWA Representative Pat Warren told the Jacksonville Times-Union that members in northern Florida rallied because the union's Florida contract with AllTel is about to expire.

"There's no reason for us to expect any difference than what our members in Kentucky or the Carolinas have seen from AllTel. We believe there is a pattern here, a pattern of disregard for employees," Warren said.

Members of a CWA-represented AllTel unit in Ohio have been working without a contract since last January, and since then, talks have started on three more contracts in Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina.

The union is also being stonewalled at a bargaining table in Kentucky, where talks are under way on a first contract for the newly organized unit. One of the issues at this table, Moses said, is management's refusal to recognize seniority in the new unit.

"These unfair and unjust actions come at a time when the company spent $6.2 million to rename the sports stadium in Jacksonville as a shrine to itself, and has closed down a number of facilities," Moses said.

CWA's executive board recently authorized a combined advertising/ mobilization campaign aimed at securing contracts with the various AllTel units.

John Howard, assistant to Moses, said CWA represents about 1,300 workers in 13 AllTel units in eight states scattered throughout 24 locals. IBEW represents another 1,300 workers at AllTel, the nation's sixth-largest independent telephone company.