Round of devastating job cuts are deepest since the telecom giant said it would create jobs after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
NATIONWIDE — AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) plans to cut 1,880 American jobs over the next few months, continuing a pattern of drastic cuts to family-supporting jobs in communities across the country. The company began notifying employees that their jobs are at risk right before Father’s Day weekend, forcing thousands of working dads and families to spend the holiday figuring out what to do now that they are facing the loss of their paychecks.
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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was one of the most fervent proponents of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and said AT&T would use its tax dollars to create at least 7,000 jobs. But since the tax bill passed, the company has been aggressively eliminating tens of thousands of jobs. Meanwhile, AT&T has received a $21 billion windfall from the TCJA, slashed capital investments by $1.4 billion, given hefty pay increases to top executives and did not pay cash income taxes in 2018.
These new cuts come just days after the Communications Workers of America (CWA) issued a series of reports showing AT&T’s network in the Midwest is in disrepair even as it is reducing the number of trained, career employees.
“Instead of celebrating with my children on Father’s Day, I had to tell them that their dad may not have a job soon,” said Todd Menth, a father of two facing a job cut in Kent, Ohio. “I’ve worked hard at AT&T for nineteen years and I’m proud of my work. My message to AT&T is that it’s not too late to change course, to invest in next-generation networks and keep these good jobs in our community.”
The job cut notifications began last Thursday, impacting technicians in the following states: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The workers, members of CWA, are in a long-standing battle with the company to ensure that AT&T’s tax windfall is used as promised to create jobs and increase wages. Over 14,000 members of CWA in the Midwest, Puerto Rico and in AT&T’s national Legacy T unit are in contract negotiations with AT&T, and another 22,000 in the Southeast will begin negotiations this summer.
In addition to this round of cuts, a CWA analysis from May 2019 showed the company has eliminated 23,328 jobs since the TCJA passed in late 2017, including nearly 6,000 in the first quarter of 2019. At the same time, the company continues to send work to low-wage contractors and overseas. AT&T has closed 44 call centers and eliminated 16,000 call center jobs in the last seven years, with the Midwest region being one of the hardest hit.
Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, where AT&T workers worked tirelessly to rebuild the AT&T network and help customers after Hurricane Maria, the company is refusing to ensure its two Puerto Rican call centers will stay open. Instead, AT&T recently opened Spanish-language call centers in Mexico that serve the U.S. market.
“Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, and the AT&T workers here played a critical role in making sure people could reach their loved ones,” said Daniel Borrero, an AT&T Mobility customer care representative in Puerto Rico. “Instead of acknowledging our dedication and investing in American jobs in the commonwealth, AT&T seems to be directing Spanish-language work to other countries. After today’s news about major job cuts, Puerto Rican workers like me are worried we’re next.”
AT&T responds to criticism of its massive job cuts with boasts about hiring and by saying that workers have the option to relocate. But AT&T workers and their union note that hiring to address turnover is not the same as job creation, and relocation options are often hundreds of miles away from workers’ homes and families in communities with dramatically higher costs of living, making relocation unviable for the majority of employees. The facts in AT&T’s own reports are clear—they have 23,000 fewer people on their payroll than they did at the beginning of 2018.
CWA has been leading the charge to hold AT&T accountable to the jobs promises the company made as part of its effort to pass the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. In March, CWA President Chris Shelton testified in front of the House Ways and Means Committee about the impact of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act on American workers, and called on Congress to probe AT&T on how it is spending its tax cut money, saying: “You may ask ‘what is AT&T doing with this money if it’s not being used to create jobs and invest in the U.S.?’ We’d like to know as well.”
Economists too have been weighing in on how big employers like AT&T are using their increased profits from the tax windfall: “The strongest claim made by proponents of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was that it would trickle down to aid working families by boosting wages,” said Josh Bivens, director of research at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). “This was never a convincing claim and we can see now just how cynical it was all along: after lobbying fiercely for a corporate tax cut that put literally billions in their coffers, AT&T is fighting tooth and nail to make sure that they don’t have to share any of this new profitability with their workers by committing to invest in good jobs.”