LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Time is running out for members of the Communication Workers of America and AT&T to reach a deal. Their current contract expires Saturday at midnight. CWA Local 6203 President David Patton tells NewsChannel 11 that if they can't come to an agreement, around 350 line crews could stop working.
AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp tells us negotiations could come down to the last hour, and Patton says a strike would affect more than just the workers. He says it could have a negative affect on the Lubbock economy. "The company and the union has the same goals. We'd like everybody to be profitable. We'd like the company to be profitable, but we'd like them to share that with us also," Patton said.
Patton tells us they've been bargaining with AT&T for five weeks with no deal. "The main road block seems to be healthcare," Patton said. Sharp says they're looking into more market based plans. He says right now, the company pays for around 90% of employee health benefits. Sharp says nationally, employers pay around 70%.
"AT&T has shown its ability to be a profitable company with its union labor and have a good benefits package, and currently they're wanting to change that with nothing but severe take backs," Patton said. Sharp says AT&T has more union represented employees than the big three automakers combined, and they're proud of it. He says AT&T negotiated other contracts with CWA unions that included similar healthcare changes and is optimistic they can reach an agreement this time as well.
Patton says the union wants to avoid a strike. He says that could take hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the Lubbock economy. "Approximately $400,000 is what we put in the Lubbock economy each month and of course if we have a work stoppage that ends, and that will trickle down to everyone. We're just one little west Texas local, but the fight against corporate greed has to stop somewhere," Patton said.
These negotiations don't just affect Lubbock. Patton says they affect the entire District 6 region, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas and around 26,000 employees.