Midwestern politicians send AT&T letters asking it to suspend job cuts and off-shoring of jobs

Numerous politicians across Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana released letters on Wednesday asking AT&T to suspend its job cuts in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

A press release from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said the letters, which were from more than 50 elected officials, to AT&T CEO John Stankey also requested that AT&T stop off-shoring jobs.

Since receiving $21 billion from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, AT&T has steadily cut jobs each quarter, despite promises to create 7,000 new jobs, CWA said in its release. Overall, AT&T has eliminated over 40,000 jobs, including more than 3,500 CWA-represented positions in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

In their letters to Stankey, United States representatives Rashida Tlaib (D) and Andy Levin (D) of Michigan, Wisconsin senator Chris Larson (D), and the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, Jamael Tito Brown (D), along with other government officials, laid out a set of recommendations for AT&T:

• Suspending cuts to technician jobs cuts so long as any work is contracted out. 

• Suspending cuts to call center job cuts so long as any work is off-shored or contracted out. 

• Suspending cuts to retail jobs so long as the company utilizes authorized dealers. 

• Honoring agreements of neutrality and voluntary recognition with the Communications Workers of America to allow all workers at companies acquired by AT&T to join the union without management opposition or interference.

The CWA said the percentage of the company’s union workforce has decreased, with only 40% of its workforce covered by collective bargaining agreements. It also said many of the AT&T's jobs have shifted to contractors who are paid lower wages and have few, if any, benefits.

“These elected officials know how much their communities depend on good, family-supporting jobs and reliable, up-to-date communications systems, and we thank them for their support,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “Many areas in the Midwest do not have access to the high-speed internet connections that have become indispensable for education, health care, remote work and other services during the pandemic. AT&T’s union workforce and its commitment to universal service was the bedrock for economic growth and stability for millions of Americans.

"It's time for AT&T to show that it is ready to build back better from this pandemic. If AT&T's executives truly care about their employees, their customers and our country, they will end these job cuts and build the next generation of broadband across America using their skilled, dependable union workforce.”

In an email Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for AT&T said the telco remains one of the country’s largest employers, and one of the largest employers of union-represented employees.

"These actions align with our focus on growth areas along with lower customer demand for some legacy products and the economic impact and changed customer behaviors resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic," the spokesperson said in an email to FierceTelecom. "As a result, there will be targeted, but sizable reductions in our workforce across executives, managers and union-represented employees, consistent with our previously announced transformation initiative.

"Additionally, we’ll be eliminating more non-payroll workers — the vast majority of which are outside the United States – than we are managers or union-represented employees. Reducing our workforce is a difficult decision that we don’t take lightly. For employees leaving as part of these changes, we’re offering severance pay and company-provided healthcare coverage for up to 6 months for eligible employees."

AT&T started to reduce its headcount in June as part of its plan to reduce operational costs by $6 billion. AT&T cut its workforce by 4,040 jobs in the fourth quarter, according to a press release by the Communications Workers of America (CWA.)

On AT&T's fourth quarter earnings call, Stankey said AT&T was targeting a 4% reduction in labor-related costs including benefits and contract employees in 2020.

RELATED: Communications Workers of America: AT&T culls over 4,000 jobs in Q4

In June, the Communications Workers of America, which represents about 100,000 AT&T's employees, said AT&T was eliminating 3,400 technical and clerical jobs as it closed down 250 retail stores.