AT&T and T-Mobile Merger Block: CEO Randall Stephenson is Dangling the 5,000 Jobs Carrot Again


On March 27, 2008 ABC News reported that Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T declared that the company could not return the promised 5,000 jobs back to the United States from India because of a lack of skilled workers.

Stephenson said he is especially distressed that in some U.S. communities and among certain groups, the high school dropout rate is as high as 50 percent. “If I had a business that half the product we turned out was defective [emphasis mine] or you couldn’t put into the marketplace, I would shut that business down,” he said. “We’re able to do new product engineering in Bangalore as easily as we’re able to do it in Austin, Texas….I know you don’t like hearing that, but that’s the way it is. [ABC News]

I don’t know about you, but I remember Randall Stephenson slapping the American worker in the face. There’s more:

So far, only around 1,400 jobs have been returned to the United States of 5,000, a target it set in 2006, the company said, adding that it maintains the target.

Randall Stephenson has been dangling the same 5,000 jobs in our faces FOR AT LEAST FIVE YEARS. And as 1,400 jobs out of 5,000 were returned by 2008,  that leaves only 3,600 jobs to return. Hmmm … Perhaps Randall Stephenson is promising to return 5,000 other jobs, but I doubt it.

The AFL-CIO and the Communications Workers for America (CWA) are in favor of the merger as  Rep. John Conyers,Jr. (D-MI) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) are against the merger. If we frame their opposing viewpoints as a fight between liberals and labor unions,  then we take the focus off of AT&T, (stop it Ed Schultz).  Since 2006,  a promise to return 5,000 jobs,  dangled  in front of the defective American worker, but now that AT&T wants this merger:

Suddenly, the American Worker Got Skillz?

AT&T needs you, the suddenly skilled American worker. You are the pawn in Randall Stephens’ counter-move to the Department of Justice move to block the merger with T-Mobile. He’s dangling the jobs carrot, promising “to bring [the same] 5,000 call-center jobs back to the United States,” that have been promised for the past 5 years. Take note of two important words: “bring” and “back.” What AT&T has taken away they now want to “bring back” and what they bring back they also take away again. The AFL-CIO and the  Communication Workers of America (CWA) want this merger approved. CWAs experience with T-Mobile, a company that I have patronized for years, is an eye-opener:

T-Mobile USA’s anti-union campaign has been brutal: management distributes memos and manuals that instruct managers on how to stop organizing efforts and orders its security guards to harass workers interested in organizing. Job advertisements for human resource managerial positions stress union avoidance. Upper level management refuses to even talk to counterparts at CWA. The National Labor Relations Board has warned T-Mobile USA for its behavior. To this day, workers at T-Mobile USA have neither collective representation nor a voice at the workplace to speak up against unfair treatment. Upper management may have employment contracts; workers do not.

This is CWAs current opinion of AT&T:

AT&T has a demonstrated commitment to workers’ rights, supporting management neutrality that enables workers to make a free and fair choice about union representation and bargaining rights.

But this was CWAs opinion of AT&T back in 2004:

September 20, 2004
AT&T continues to show its disregard for workers and customers [emphasis mine] by cutting jobs and closing customer service centers, said Ralph Maly, CWA vice president for communications and technologies.

The company’s announcement on Sept. 13 that it was closing the customer service center in Charleston, W.Va., eliminating nearly 300 jobs, came just a year after company shut down its operator center, putting 100 people out of work, said CWA Representative Elaine Harris.

AT&T also announced it was cutting 130 jobs in Fairhaven, Mass., and closing centers in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, affecting more than 50 jobs in each location.

CWA President Morton Bahr thanked Senators Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller for speaking out against the West Virginia closing. He reminded the senators that “two years ago, AT&T put our members in Charleston in a head-to-head competition with a call center in Bangalore, India. It is no surprise that we could not compete when measured against the total cost of doing business in India as against Charleston.” AT&T has since opened another call center in Nederland, India, …

AT&T’s announcement in July that it was abandoning the residential consumer market was another in a long line of missteps the company has made, Maly said.

… This week alone, another 1,600 jobs in the region have been eliminated, Harris said. [CWA]

Perhaps AT&T has changed and become a better corporate citizen and CWA has acquired more clout. CWA claims that the 100,000 jobs loss cited by critics occurred on the wire side of AT&T as customers unplugged their phones or switched providers: fair enough. If according to CWA, AT&T is a great company for labor unions, then why has the company favored non-union, offshore labor?  CWA touts its track record of working successfully with AT&T to save jobs, but they haven’t been able to stop AT&Ts offshoring activities. How is it that AT&T has gone from disregarding workers to committed to workers? I really would like to know how that happened. Does the CWA believe that they can stop AT&T from offshoring again, the same jobs that, until now, AT&T has been unwilling to repatriate? American worker: don’t let Randall Stephenson play you for a sucker.

… if AT&T agrees to bring 5,000 call center jobs from India to the U.S. will it maintain its cost savings estimates by paying the U.S. workers the same as its India-based cell center staff? Or will AT&T maintain its cost savings target by firing more workers somewhere else and paying those 5,000 the prevailing U.S. wage? [Forbes]

Somewhere in the AT&T universe, workers are gonna get screwed.

Closing Opinions

“The competitive effects of a merger of this size and scope will reverberate throughout the telecommunications sector for decades to come and will affect consumer prices, customer service, innovation, competition in handsets and the quality and quantity of network coverage. These threats are too large and too irrevocable to be prevented or alleviated by conditions,” wrote Franken.

The Department of Justice:

“The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would result in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products for mobile wireless services,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. … “AT&T’s elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low-priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market,” the complaint said. “Thus, unless this acquisition is enjoined, customers of mobile wireless telecommunications services likely will face higher prices, less product variety and innovation, and poorer quality services due to reduced incentives to invest than would exist absent the merger.” [DealBook]

AT&T is offering nothing new and we should not allow them to use the 5,000 jobs that they have promised to bring back to the United States since 2006 to win a merger battle that will result in higher prices and less competition (which translates to less choice for you, American worker).

I know that AT&Ts proposed $8 billion in infrastructure investment, which reportedly could create up to 96,000 infrastructure jobs, is hard to turn down. Remember: as long as job offshoring tax loopholes exist, what AT&T giveth they can easily take away and so far, unions have not been able to stop them. And AT&T does not need this merger to accomplish their goals. During the first quarter of 2011:

    1. AT&T posted a net income of $3.4 billion dollars.
    2.  AT&T reported a 39 percent increase in its first-quarter profits, even after losing exclusive iPhone contract rights in the United States.
    3. AT&T revenues increased from $30.5 billion to $31.2 billion.

[NY Times]

AT&T can afford to invest in the United States without the merger deal.

Note to AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson: the east coast could use your help.

Back when Thom Hartmann moved his studio to Washington, D.C. he expressed dissatisfaction with AT&Ts poor service, especially dropped calls. Watch and learn as Thom Hartmann and Joel Kelsey, Political Advisor at, discuss AT&T price hikes, price competition and monopoly. What is the Sherman Anti-Trust Act?

Related: Free Press Applauds Justice Department Blocking Anti-Competitive AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

@nytimes @forbes @timesofindia @usnews @thomhartmann @freepress @CWAunion


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