Last week, AT&T announced plans to close 320 company-owned AT&T Mobility retail stores in November and December, disrupting the employment of over 1,600 workers during the holiday season. These closures are in addition to 250 stores that AT&T abandoned earlier this year. AT&T is expected to shutter additional stores in the coming months.
While AT&T claims that the store closures are due to changing customer behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing the number of corporate stores is part of the game plan proposed a year ago when vulture hedge fund Elliott Management took a small stake in the company. Elliott’s plan advocated greater use of authorized retailers, the majority of which are run by a large corporation called Prime Communications using AT&T branding. Workers at authorized dealer stores typically earn less than union-represented workers at corporate stores and have fewer benefits, and the incentive structure can lead to deceptive sales practices.
“It has been business as usual for AT&T during this pandemic,” said Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton. “After a brief pause, AT&T has returned to the Elliott Management playbook, ignoring the needs of its employees and customers in order to put more profit in the hands of hedge fund managers and large shareholders.”
Under CWA’s collective bargaining agreements with AT&T, most of the workers at stores that are closing will be assigned to other stores or, if they meet the qualifications, offered call center work from home positions.