Companies Putting Shareholders Ahead of Workers are Harming our Communities

CWAers briefed members of Congress and their staff this week on how the recent rise of stock buybacks is harming workers, communities, and the whole economy.

CWA's Director of Government Affairs Dan Mauer outlined proposals from vulture capitalist fund Elliott Management, owned by billionaire Paul Singer, that would gut jobs at AT&T while using short term profits to buy back stock to boost the company's share prices. CWA District 3 Campaign Lead Marsha Vaughn shared the story of how after 29 years at AT&T, the company closed the Pensacola call center where she worked, forcing her to move away from her family on short notice.

"Over 50 of us who worked at the call center were given just five days to make a choice: move out of the state or lose your job. My family depended on my income, so I had no choice but to move to Nashville, which was seven hours away from my family and my life in Pensacola."

Vaughn pointed out that before the 2017 tax bill, AT&T promised they would create more than 7,000 jobs if the bill passed. Instead, in 2018, the company conducted $609 million in stock buybacks, which alone could have funded 6,625 jobs. Instead of investing in workers and building out its network, AT&T laid off thousands of workers across the country.

"In the Southeast region where I'm from, AT&T announced a surplus of over 900 employees in June," Vaughn said. "Hundreds of those employees were ultimately let go of. Thankfully, our union contract has protections so that people have an opportunity for a job offer within AT&T, but many could not move for a new position, so they were forced out in other ways. Many of the people who lost their jobs have worked for the company for over 20 years, and they depended on the job to support their families."

At a Congressional hearing on buybacks that followed the briefing, Representative Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) raised the issue of Elliott Management's pressure to increase stock buybacks at AT&T. In response, economist Lenore Palladino of the Roosevelt Institute noted that instead of using free cash flow to buy back stocks, AT&T could instead invest in upgrading America's broadband infrastructure and support its workforce.