Communication Workers of America picket AT&T

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Communication Workers of America staged an informational picket against AT&T in Lake Charles.

Workers said the pickets were a show of support for their bargaining committee.

At&T officials say that the contract was extended until 11:59 p.m. Thursday. It had been slated to expire at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

The workers told 7News that the company is trying to force them to pay more for healthcare. They also oppose the company sending more and more jobs overseas.

"AT&T in 2011, made $20 billion in profit. So far, in 2002, for the first quarter, they've made another $5 billion yet they're at the bargaining table asking people to double the cost of healthcare for givebacks and wages," said Michael Fahrenholt, the international representative for the Communication Workers of America in Louisiana.

Farenholt said it's too soon to predict whether the workers and AT&T will resolve their differences without a work stoppage.

AT&T officials say they began bargaining on June 18 with the CWA on a contract covering more than 22,000 employees in the company's Southeast Region.

Marty Richter with AT&T Corporate Communications sent an e-mail to KPLC on the bargaining process.

"Bargaining is for wages, benefits, pension and work rules. It includes employees in both network and call center roles ... again, these are folks who work in the traditional wireline (landline) part of our business. This does not affect our Mobility (wireless) employees, who are covered by a different contract," Richter wrote.

Richter said that the employees in the contracts are "very well compensated."

"We are not proposing to reduce the wages of any employee in these contracts, or to take away their health care benefits. And in an era when many companies are either curtailing or abandoning benefits, we continue to provide great benefits - including medical, dental, vision, pensions and/or 401(k) savings plans - to employees, retirees and their dependents," Richter wrote.

Richter said officials anticipate that both parties will work toward a suitable agreement.

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