Senators Pressure AT&T to Reach Deal with CWA

So far, there hasn’t been any nationally coordinated strike activity.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

July 2, 2018

3 Min Read
U.S. Capitol with Clouds

A group of U.S. senators are urging AT&T to reach an agreement with 14,000 workers covered by Midwest and Legacy T contracts that improves workers’ job security and includes a commitment to create new jobs in the United States.

Sens. Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Richard Durbin, Tammy Duckworth and Joe Donnelly, all Democrats, signed the letter sent to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson asking the telecommunications giant to continue negotiating in good faith until an agreement is reached.

Since January 2016, AT&T alone has laid off thousands of call-center workers and closed dozens of U.S. call centers,” the letter said. “Understandably, American workers, including AT&T workers in our states, fear their jobs being offshored. We urge you to assuage those fears by making explicit contract guarantees to increase the number of U.S.-based call center jobs.”

The workers are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). In May, the CWA’s executive board voted to approve a strike. The decision allowed CWA President Chris Shelton to set a strike date if negotiators can’t reach an agreement.

So far, there hasn’t been any nationally coordinated strike activity and the company “continues to stonewall workers at the bargaining table over the need for good family-supporting jobs,” according to the CWA.

Marty Richter, AT&T spokesman, said “we’re committed to reaching fair agreements and the terms we are proposing will make these employees better off.”

“They currently average over $120,000 a year in pay and benefits, with some making over $200,000,” he said. “Last year we paid a special $1,000 bonus to all of our frontline U.S. employees after tax reform was passed. That’s in addition to the $800 million we invested toward our employee and retiree medical trust, and nearly $100 million for our AT&T charitable foundation. No company is more invested in the American workforce than AT&T and we are currently hiring thousands of people, with 8,500 hired so far this year and over 87,000 over the past three years.”

In addition, U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-MI) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and 23 colleagues sent a letter to Stephenson calling on the company to disclose plans for its profits from the Republican tax bill — in particular on job growth.

The letter says that in a Nov. 8 press release, Stephenson said the company “would commit to investing an additional $1 billion in the U.S. should the bill in question be signed into law.”

“You further stated that your analysis suggested that such investment would result in the creation of 7,000 additional jobs,” the letter said. “However, recent reports regarding contract negotiations suggest otherwise. As we consider future taxing and spending priorities for the United States, in our capacity as members of Congress, we would ask that you update us on the status of your plans to invest in the United States, as well as other seen and unforeseen impacts the tax law has had on your business plans.”

In April, the CWA released a report blasting AT&T for …

… allegedly eliminating “thousands of jobs, closing call centers and shifting customer service and network maintenance to low-wage contractors, including overseas vendors.” It noted that while Stephenson once “boasted that every $1 billion in tax savings will create about 7,000 good jobs for the middle class,” the company announced more than 1,500 layoffs just days after President Trump’s tax bill became law.

“The time is now for AT&T to follow through on its tax bill promises to create good, family-supporting U.S. jobs and invest in workers,” said Linda Hinton, CWA District 4 vice president. “While AT&T stonewalls workers at the bargaining table over offshoring and outsourcing, the company is pulling in billions in profits from the tax bills. AT&T workers will not give up on their fight against layoffs, cuts and closures.”

Richter said the CWA continues to “make misleading statements about a ‘promise’ that was never made.”

What was actually said is that we plan to invest an additional $1 billion in the U.S. this year, and that research shows every $1 billion in capital invested in the telecom industry (not every $1 billion in tax savings) creates about 7,000 jobs across the American economy,” he said.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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