Communication Workers of America (CWA) members held an action in downtown Minneapolis on April 15 to mark a full year of AT&T employees working under an expired contract. The significance of Tax Day brings attention to the $20 billion in tax break that the U.S. based telecom giant received last year under the Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (signed in December 2017).
In lobbying for the tax breaks, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson claimed that U.S. job creation would be a direct outcome, “By immediately lowering the corporate tax rate to 20%, this bill will stimulate investment, job creation and economic growth in the United States… If the House bill is signed into law, we’d commit to increasing our domestic investment by $1 billion in the first year in which the new rates are in place. And research tells us that every $1 billion in capital invested in telecom creates about 7,000 good jobs for the middle class.”
Yet instead of bringing job growth, according to CWA’s AT&T 2018 Jobs Report, in 2018 alone AT&T cut 10,700 jobs and announced that a further three call centers will soon be closed in the Midwest, while simultaneously sending thousands of jobs overseas where there are reports of outrageously sexist and often unsafe working conditions.
The AT&T Midwest CWA members as well as AT&T’s national Legacy T division have been in contract negotiations fighting to guarantee job security, as well as affordable healthcare and a secured retirement. But during an interview at the recent April 15 action, CWA local 7250 President Shari Wojtowicz says that job security comes before all other issues. “Working for the last year without a contract and not striking proves that we are invested in the success of the company and wanting it to succeed. But it is difficult to continue working without job security or any thought that the company cares about the very people that are making them successful.”
Wojtowicz continued by sharing her view that the goal is not to take work from overseas employees, but that it is clear that these are jobs that initiated in the USA. Following a teleconference where Wojtowicz had the opportunity to speak to AT&T call-center workers in The Philippines, she learned of working conditions that are unthinkable by US labor standards, such as the reported practice of verifying that female employees have their monthly periods, because being pregnant would be a breach of their contract. These types of practices coupled with unbelievably low wages for overseas workers contributed to AT&T’s $30 billion in profits last year.
It is clear that AT&T’s biggest goal remains reducing costs and increasing profits, and there seems to be no memory of its previous commitments of domestic “good jobs for the middle class” following the massive tax windfall. CWA members have filed requests for information on how the tax funds were used, the report argues that based on the company’s latest quarterly earnings report, there has been increases of money spent on dividends and stock buybacks.
Although it has not yet come to it, CWA members have voted to strike if necessary. Information on CWA’s position can be found at www.goodjobsatt.org