Washington, DC – At today’s Tax March 2018 in Washington, DC, former AT&T call center worker and Communications Workers of America Local 4004 President Merle Milton called out the company for recent layoffs in Detroit and across the country. The company’s CEO Randall Stephenson promised to create 7,000 jobs if the GOP tax plan passed. Instead, despite a $20 billion windfall as a result of tax cuts in the bill, AT&T announced thousands of unnecessary layoffs late last year. The layoffs come as the company continues to eliminate good, middle-class jobs and rely increasingly on low-wage contractors overseas, devastating families and communities across America.
“This December, AT&T announced that they were closing the call center where I’ve worked for 25 years,” said Merle Milton. “My co-workers and I worked hard to provide quality customer service and help grow AT&T into the successful company it is today. But instead of rewarding us for our dedication, AT&T is pulling out of our community and taking our jobs overseas – undermining customer service and hurting hardworking families. Workers deserve better, AT&T customers deserve better, and cities like Detroit deserve better.”
With $164 billion in sales and 135 million wireless customers, AT&T is the country’s largest telecommunications company. However, AT&T has laid off workers and eliminated thousands of jobs in recent years, often in areas where workers have few other options to earn a family-supporting wage. Rather than investing in its U.S. workforce and the communities where it operates, the company is increasingly relying on third party contractors, including overseas customer service center operators. Workers in these call centers are undertrained and paid pennies on the dollar relative to call center workers in the U.S., undermining customer service and jeopardizing AT&T’s long-term success.
CWA members at AT&T Midwest and AT&T’s national Legacy T division are currently negotiating new contracts. Keeping family-supporting jobs with affordable health care and a secure retirement in the communities that AT&T serves is a key issue at the bargaining table. The workers’ contracts expired on Saturday, and the workers have voted to strike if progress in not made toward a fair agreement.
“Our battle at AT&T is a sad example of the way employers across America have doubled down on increasing the wealth of top executives and shareholders at the expense of everyone else. First they demand tax cuts that leave less money for education, Medicare, Social Security and other critical services. Then they eliminate the jobs our communities rely on,” Milton added. “With its billions in profits and tax breaks, AT&T should be a leader in creating good jobs here in the United States. It is past time for companies like AT&T to look up from their bottom line and show they are serious about investing in our country’s future.”
Layoffs at AT&T threaten to undermine the GOP-led effort to sell a very unpopular tax plan to voters ahead of the 2018 midterms, including in key battleground states like Michigan and Ohio. Alongside AT&T, many major retailers are closing stores and laying off workers despite seeing significant savings as a result of the tax giveaways in the bill. Last week a Congressional Budget Office report confirmed that the tax bill provides incentives for companies to move operations offshore, despite promises that House Speaker Paul Ryan made that the bill would reduce the flow of American jobs overseas.
Today’s event was the second annual Tax Day March in D.C., bringing together thousands of Americans from across the country to demand a fairer tax system and an economy that works for all Americans, not just the very wealthy. Speakers including Milton also voiced support for the No Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Act, a bill introduced by Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to end tax incentives that reward companies like AT&T for shipping jobs overseas.
About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents 700,000 working men and women in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, public service and manufacturing.