CWA’s Analysis of AT&T Quarterly Report Shows Robust First Quarter Earnings, Continued Cuts to Jobs and Services

Friday, April 23, 2021

AT&T reported an extremely strong first quarter, with net profit up 60% year over year to $7.9 billion and free cash flow up 51% year over year to $5.9 billion. Yet the company continues to cut jobs and reduce retail operations, leaving our communities underserved.

Retail store closures and conversions to third party dealers

AT&T has closed 549 corporate retail stores over the past year, even as it has converted many stores into dealer stores, which operate at a lower cost because they employ fewer workers and offer significantly lower compensation. AT&T is following the hedge fund playbook that called for greater outsourcing to cut costs. This harms customer service and eliminates family-supporting retail jobs. While many retail workers represented by CWA were able to transfer into a virtual sales job because of a negotiated job guarantee under their union contract, this shrinking of the corporate retail footprint will result in lower wages for retail wireless workers.

  Dec 2019 % of total April 2021 % of total Change
Corporate 2,273 40% 1,724 32% -549
Authorized 3,402 60% 3,714 68% +312
Total AT&T Branded Stores 5,675   5,438    

 

Continued job cuts

In the full year encompassing the pandemic, AT&T reduced its total employment by 16,020, only slightly less than the previous year's reduction of 17,800. While fewer union-represented jobs were cut during the pandemic, CWA is very concerned that AT&T chose to continue eliminating thousands of jobs during a global health and economic emergency to satisfy Wall Street demands for profits at any cost.

  AT&T Employment[1] AT&T Employment Growth from 2018 Acquisitions [2] AT&T Employment (Excluding Acquisitions) Annual Change in AT&T Employment (Excluding Acquisitions)
         

3/31/2018

249,240

 

249,240

 

3/31/2019

262,290

31,618

230,672

-18,568

3/31/2020

244,490

 

212,872

-17,800

3/31/2021

228,470

 

196,852

-16,020

       

-52,388

[1] AT&T quarterly reports
[2] AT&T Proxy Statement (March 11, 2019)

 

Fiber deployment without a commitment to good jobs

While CWA welcomes AT&T's planned investment in fiber deployment to pass 7 million homes by the end of 2022, the question remains to what extent this work will be done by low-wage contractors or by insourcing to good, union jobs with a future. CWA will work with allies to hold the company -- and all of its peers -- to a "build back better" standard given the essential nature of broadband service and the need for a well-trained, career workforce to build and maintain this infrastructure.

Deteriorating labor relations

AT&T’s relationship with its CWA-represented workforce continues to deteriorate. For much of its history 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.

Recently, however, AT&T has established a pattern of anti-union behavior, forcing CWA to take the company to court again and again. For example, the company has violated its labor agreements with CWA by preventing thousands of WarnerMedia workers from using established procedures to choose CWA representation. The company is also trying to take advantage of the fact that the National Labor Relations Board is still dominated by anti-union Trump appointees to prevent In Home Expert (IHX) workers at AT&T Mobility in Detroit who have voted to form a union from having their ballots counted.

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