AUSTIN, Tex. -- As contract bargaining opened today for over 8,000 AT&T Southwest Mobility employees, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) bargaining team emphasized the need for AT&T to negotiate an improved contract that includes wage and benefit increases and a commitment to keeping good, family-supporting jobs in the region. Workers set up informational picket lines at retail stores and call center locations across the region in support of the bargaining.
Despite record-breaking profits, the company has cut over 37,000 jobs since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect in 2018, including 4,040 in the fourth quarter of 2019. Capital expenditures declined by more than $1 billion in 2019 as compared to 2018. AT&T workers and union members are confused and discouraged by the company’s broken promises, including the pledge made by AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson to create 7,000 new jobs if President Trump’s corporate tax cuts passed. Stephenson also signed onto a statement as a member of the Business Roundtable committing to invest in employees and support the communities where they live and work.
“AT&T keeps saying that Mobility is the future of its business, and the future of communication, video and content. Instead of recognizing the value that a well-trained, experienced, union workforce brings, company executives just talk about the need for more cutbacks on labor costs,” said Jason Vellmer, a CWA Staff Representative, who is leading the bargaining team. “The employees of Mobility handle every technology offered to consumers and play a critical role in AT&T’s core business. It’s time for the company to stop focusing so much on pumping up its stock price and focus on investing in its employees and the next generation networks that our communities need.”
AT&T has continued to cater to the demands of controversial vulture hedge fund Elliott Management, which purchased a small stake in AT&T in September 2019. Elliott is pushing AT&T to extract profits from the company by eliminating jobs, outsourcing work, and divesting critical assets.
Elliott has also won a commitment from AT&T to spend $30 billion on stock buybacks, which will drive up its share price to enrich a small group of wealthy investors, leaving fewer resources for building next generation wireless and fiber broadband networks and training workers for the jobs of the future. Credit-rating agency Moody’s has raised concerns that the large cost of the stock buyback plan puts AT&T at risk for a credit downgrade.
The current contract for CWA members at AT&T Southwest Mobility covers workers in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas and expires on February 21, 2020.