Instead of cutting jobs, AT&T must lead the recovery

AT&T has informed the Communications Workers of America of its plans to cut over 3,400 technician and clerical jobs across the country over the next few weeks. In addition, the company plans to permanently shutter over 250 AT&T Mobility and Cricket Wireless stores, impacting 1,300 retail jobs. These cuts come as Americans have become more dependent than ever on reliable communications services and the COVID-19 crisis has revealed significant gaps in broadband availability, especially in rural areas.

Last month, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson described the COVID-19 crisis as “a time of war," during an interview on CNN. Stephenson went on to say, “Everybody needs to step up and do their part, in terms of how we help the general population and the general public."

“If we are in a war to keep our economy going during this crisis, why is AT&T dismissing the troops?” said Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton. “CWA and AT&T have been working together to protect worker and customer health and safety and to provide premium pay for essential workers. The company showed an interest in investing in its workers and its network by cancelling planned stock buybacks. AT&T could help lead the country toward recovery by partnering with its workforce to build next generation networks. Instead the company is adding to the pain of the recession already underway.”

Last year, controversial vulture hedge fund Elliott Management purchased a small stake in AT&T in order to push the company to extract profits by eliminating jobs, outsourcing work, and divesting critical assets and to drive up the share price through stock buybacks. While the cancelled stock buyback and election of John Stankey as Stephenson’s successor seemed to signal that AT&T was rejecting Elliott Management’s plans, these layoffs and store closures suggest that AT&T is following the Elliott playbook.

“I want to know where these jobs are going,” said Joe Snyder, President of CWA Local 4302 in Akron, Ohio who has been an AT&T technician for 25 years. “From where we sit, it looks like AT&T is pushing the work to low-paid contractors who do not have the same training, experience, and commitment as CWA members. The money they are saving goes into the pockets of wealthy shareholders looking for short-term profits instead of staying here in our communities. AT&T said they were going to step up for their employees and their customers. I guess that’s just another broken promise.”

AT&T and other corporations have been under scrutiny for failing to follow through on their promises to use their tax windfalls from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that went into effect in 2018 to create jobs, raise wages, and increase investment in infrastructure. AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson pledged to create 7,000 new jobs if President Trump’s corporate tax cuts passed. Instead, a review of AT&T’s quarterly reports shows that the company has cut over 41,000 jobs, not including the planned cuts announced today.

Links:

Instead of cutting jobs, AT&T must lead the recovery (CWA, June 16, 2020)