Citing concerns about the impact on workers in the media sector, the Communications Workers of America is calling for greater scrutiny of AT&T’s plan to spin off its Warner Media division and combine it into a new company with Discovery.
“For too long, regulators have had tunnel vision when it comes to anti-trust review,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “The Biden Administration and the Department of Justice should take a serious look at the impact of this transaction on jobs and wages.”
Three years ago, CWA supported AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner after assurances workers at the new company would be able to join a union without interference from management and engage in collective bargaining. While mergers often result in job loss and create downward pressure on wages, union representation mitigates those effects. Having a voice on the job through collective bargaining agreements would have been transformational for workers throughout Time Warner, from camera operators at CNN to game programmers at WB Interactive Entertainment.
AT&T did not keep its promise to the workers. Instead of honoring CWA’s long standing voluntary union recognition agreement, the company launched a court battle to dodge their contractual commitments to respect workers’ organizing rights .
Now AT&T is touting the $3 billion in “synergies” that the merger will create between Warner Media and Discovery. Synergies are almost always another way of saying job cuts, and in the absence of union representation and collective bargaining agreements, consolidation is likely to result in lower wages across the industry as workers have fewer options for employment.
Throughout the pandemic, CWA members at AT&T have been on the front lines, making sure Americans stay connected to work, to school, to health care services, and to each other. The need for investment in our broadband networks has never been more clear, and AT&T’s decision to refocus on telecommunications should be good news for workers and consumers. But behind the scenes, another story has been playing out. AT&T has turned away from its decades-long commitment to respect the rights of its employees to choose to join a union.
At one time AT&T respected the rights of its employees to choose to join a union and engage in collective bargaining. This meant that workers at AT&T were able to join together to ensure that they received wages and benefits that reflected their role as the front line workers who have fueled AT&T’s success. These stable, middle-class jobs formed the economic backbone of communities across America.
Unfortunately for workers at Warner Media, who will once again be facing the upheaval that merger and reorganization brings, it no longer does.