Strike Shuts Down SBC Sales Center In Reno

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A strike by workers of SBC Communications Inc. has shut down the phone provider's sales center in Reno, but caused no major problems so far in Nevada, SBC officials said Saturday.

Company spokesman John Britton said the center on Vassar Street would remain closed until after the four-day strike ends late Monday night. The office is open only on weekdays.

"We just thought it would be inconvenient for customers to face picketeers to get to us," he said. "We figured it was a better idea to close it."

About 675 SBC workers in Nevada, mostly in the Reno area, are among 100,000 employees in 13 states participating in the strike.

Britton downplayed the closure, calling the office "a place where customers go to pay bills." He said the centers were phased out in California in 1996.

But officials at Communications Workers of America Local 9413, which represents the striking Nevada workers, called it a sales and service center where customers can take care of a variety of business such as signing up for new service or asking billing questions.

It's identified as a sales center in the telephone directory.

Dozens of union members picketed the office on Saturday and Friday, said Barbara Welling, Local 9413 president.

"Our members on the picket lines were polite to customers there," she said. "They tried to direct them to other places where they could conduct business.

"The strike is going great so far. Our members are very enthusiastic and they're willing to do what it takes to get a fair contract," she said.

Workers also began picketing early Friday in Las Vegas, Carson City, Ely, Winnemucca and Hawthorne. Las Vegas is a relatively new market for SBC.

The main sticking points are over job security and medical benefits.