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Jul
2015
22

CWA Members Rally Outside AT&T Hearing to Uphold Minnesota’s Paid Sick Leave Standards

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“It’s a simple request. Follow the law.”

Those were the words of Don Waalen-Radzevicius, a 29-year employee of AT&T who was denied paid sick leave when his husband fell victim to a spell of bad health.  Waalen-Radzevicius was joined by other members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) at a rally outside of the U.S. Courthouse in Minneapolis last week to speak out about the company’s paid sick leave. 

CWA members then filled the courtroom as a judge heard AT&T and the state of Minnesota square off over the enforcement of leave legislation.  “There’s no reason that a company that has as much money as AT&T does, who continues to make as much money as AT&T does, continues to stomp on us, who make that money for them,” Waalen-Radzevicius said.

Video of the rally appeared on YouTube.

According to the state of Minnesota, senior employees of AT&T are being denied paid sick leave that is guaranteed by state law. The Minnesota Parenting Leave Act does not force Minnesota companies to provide paid sick leave. If they do, however, a minimum of 160 hours each 12-month period must be offered.  According to the state and its attorney Jonathan Mole, AT&T’s policy that workers with 25 or more years of experience are no longer eligible for sick pay flies in the face of the state’s standards. 

”AT&T wants to provide paid sick leave that falls below Minnesota’s minimum standard,” Mole told Workday Minnesota.

Debra Derke, a 30-year AT&T employee, spoke to the crowd while joined by her husband Kyle and their three daughters.  Kyle has been confined to a wheelchair following a stroke and a heart attack. Derke told the crowd, “this is the reason we are here today.”  She and her daughters must juggle their schedules to ensure Kyle is cared for and paid sick leave would alleviate some of the burden.  

CWA has filed grievances on behalf of the employees and hopes the court will uphold the state’s ability to take action against employers in such cases.  U.S. District Judge Michael Davis heard oral arguments last Friday.

In May, nearly 200 of the 243 workers in the credit collections department of AT&T held a grievance strike outside of the company’s offices in Minneapolis.  CWA Local 7250 President Shari Wojtowicz said of the strike:

“I think it was unexpected for the company.  It’s unfortunate for our customers because we pride ourselves on our quality of customer service, but if we’re not able to take care of ourselves or our families, it’s difficult for us to provide that service anyway.”

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