AT&T, union bicker over job numbers

In its report, the CWA highlighted the call center locations it said AT&T has closed during the past seven years. (Communications Workers of America)

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) union issued a report (PDF) today arguing that, despite recent tax reforms geared toward job creation, AT&T has continued to cut jobs. Specifically, the union said AT&T has cut 16,000 call center jobs in the past seven years.

Not surprisingly, AT&T pushed against many of the union’s claims, arguing that it is instead working to create new jobs.

At issue is the fact that the CWA represents 700,000 workers across the United States, including more than 100,000 at AT&T. The union continues to work to obtain better labor agreements for those workers.

In its report, CWA said that AT&T “continues to eliminate thousands of good, family-supporting jobs from coast to coast,” adding that “instead of investing in its workforce and transitioning to jobs of the future, AT&T is laying off American workers and relying increasingly on a global web of low-wage contractors to provide customer service and network maintenance.”

The union also said AT&T is gaining an estimated $20 billion boost from the recently passed corporate tax reform. The CWA in its report said that “despite these supercharged profits, the company announced plans to spend just $1 billion more on capital projects and pay a bonus of merely $1,000 to its employees, which amounts to a one-time $200 million expenditure, or 7% of AT&T’s expected annual benefit from the tax cuts.”

Responded AT&T in its own statement: “What the union consistently fails to point out is that we have chosen to hire over 87,000 people in the U.S. in the last three years, including 17,000 in 2017 alone. And we’re currently looking to fill thousands more this year,” said AT&T’s Marty Richter. “When tax reform was announced late last year, we made $200 million in bonus payments to our frontline employees, an $800 million funding of our employee and retiree medical trust, and a nearly $100 million funding of our AT&T charitable foundation.”

Added Richter: “We expect to invest an additional $1 billion in the U.S. this year, which research indicates will create about 7,000 jobs in the broader American economy.”

Richter said that AT&T’s agreements with CWA and other unions state that most of the carrier’s union-represented employees will be offered another job with the company if their current job is eliminated.

AT&T isn't the only carrier under fire on the issue. According to a new website launched by Americans for Tax Fairness, Verizon is estimated to be getting a $2.4 billion tax cut in 2018, which the group said is far larger than the $380 million in one-time bonuses the company has promised to pay its workers. The group also said Verizon has fired 300 workers since the passage of the tax law.

CWA has long worked to create momentum behind its causes. For example, in January it launched a new association called “Wireless Workers United” that it said stands as “the first-ever national network of union and nonunion workers organizing to protect good jobs and quality customer service.” The association aims to jointly organize wireless employees from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.

AT&T is scheduled to report its first quarter earnings Wednesday afternoon.