While AT&T refuses to release details about what it’s using its $20 billion in tax savings for, a report by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) examines the telecom giant’s continued role in hollowing out the middle class by eliminating thousands of jobs, closing call centers, and shifting customer service and network maintenance to low-wage contractors, including overseas vendors. While AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson once boasted that every $1 billion in tax savings will create “about 7,000 good jobs for the middle class,” the company has eliminated more than 10,700 union jobs in 2018 alone and has recently announced the closure of three more call centers in the Midwest.
Read the full report here: AT&T January 2019 Jobs Report
In December 2018, AT&T announced the closure of three call centers in Indianapolis (Ind.), Kalamazoo (Mich.) and Appleton (Wis.), part of another round of layoffs across the Midwest. While some employees at the three call centers may be able to relocate to the region’s two remaining centers in Dayton (Ohio) and Southfield (Mich.), many workers will be forced to leave the company. As AT&T is shedding jobs, it is on track to pay out three-quarters of its 2018 profits to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buybacks.
Additional case studies in the report reveal the devastating impact of recent AT&T call center closures across the Midwest, including in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois. In addition shedding good middle-class jobs, AT&T workers report that the company’s practice of outsourcing customer service work to low-wage overseas contractors is hurting the quality of service and damaging AT&T’s brand.
“Despite the fact that we have been one of AT&T's highest performing call centers, the company has had us in their sights for years. They have shifted our customer calls to offshore vendor centers where workers are paid less than $5 an hour, and at the same have made our sales metrics tougher and more exacting to meet. Now we have a tough choice - uproot our lives and transfer to another center that AT&T may shut down in a few years or try to find one of the few jobs here with good benefits and family-supporting wages,” said AT&T worker and union member Betsy Lafontaine, who has worked at the Appleton center for almost 30 years.
Key findings from the report include:
- AT&T eliminated 10,700 union jobs across its business in 2018
- AT&T plans to eliminate another three call centers in the Midwest, and layoff another 172 employees
- In the past seven years, AT&T has eliminated more than 16,000 call center jobs, closed 44 call centers, and laid off thousands of workers. If AT&T follows through on its plans to close the centers in Indianapolis, Kalamazoo and Appleton early this year, that total will rise to 47.
The report comes in the midst of CWA’s calls for Congress to investigate how AT&T is using the enormous tax cut benefits they received from the 2018 tax bill. Last month, CWA sent a letter Monday to Congressman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the current ranking member and incoming Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, urging the congressman to include AT&T in his tax bill investigation and oversight.
“AT&T is breaking its promise to workers, customers, and communities across the country,” said CWA District 4 Vice President Linda L. Hinton. “The company pledged to invest in U.S. workers if the tax bill passed, but they’ve done just the opposite. Companies like AT&T must renew their commitment to working people and the towns that depend on these jobs.”
CWA has been leading the charge to hold AT&T and other corporations accountable to their tax bill promises by publicly challenging them to reveal their spending plans for the tax windfall. CWA and other major unions filed information requests at over five companies and took action against companies like AT&T over its broken tax bill promises.
After AT&T refused to provide this information, CWA filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Earlier this month, Trump-appointed NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb dismissed CWA’s complaint. Since the NLRB has taken the position that ensuring that these tax savings benefit workers as promised goes beyond CWA’s role as a union, CWA is calling on Chairman Neal and Congress to use their investigative powers to ensure that workers receive the benefits they were promised.
CWA’s contract with AT&T’s Midwest and national Legacy T units expired in April 2018 and keeping good family-supporting jobs in communities across the country has been a key issue in negotiations.