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New Report: AT&T Cutting Jobs, Abandoning Rural Communities In Indiana

Despite promises to create jobs and invest in rural communities, AT&T is cutting jobs and neglecting rural network improvements
Thursday, June 13, 2019

INDIANA - A new report from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) shows that AT&T is neglecting rural and suburban communities in Indiana, cutting its workforce and creating service problems for customers and public safety hazards throughout the state. Despite promises to create jobs and serve rural customers, AT&T has eliminated Indiana jobs and failed to invest adequately in the next-generation networks that Indiana’s families and businesses need to access today’s data-intensive online services.

In many Indiana communities, AT&T voice service is a lifeline for customers, yet in much of the state AT&T has not upgraded its copper network to fiber to better serve customers. The new report from CWA shows that in Indiana and other states throughout the Midwest, AT&T copper cable - for many the only source of landline phone and Internet - is significantly damaged. Despite the clear need for an updated telecommunications network, AT&T continues to cut jobs and close call centers in Indiana, devastating families and upending lives.

AT&T lobbied for the Tax Cut and Jobs Act and said it would use its resulting increased profits to create more good middle-class jobs and raise wages, but the company has eliminated over 23,000 jobs since the bill passed. The new report from CWA shows that between January 2017 and January 2019 AT&T:

  • Reduced its outside plant technicians in Indiana by 19 percent, dropping from 1,078 technicians to just 876;
  • Reduced its total Indiana wireline workforce – outside technicians, inside technicians, call center workers, and administrative staff – by 20 percent, from 1,632 to 1,302 workers across the state;
  • Reduced its Indiana call center workforce by 61 percent in the last two years.

These job cuts come even as the company received a $21 billion windfall from the tax bill and is projecting $3 billion in annual tax savings going forward. AT&T’s SEC filings also shows the company boosted executive pay and suggests that after refunds, it paid no cash income taxes in 2018 and slashed capital investments by $1.4 billion.

“AT&T has turned its back on rural and suburban communities in the Midwest by eliminating jobs, advocating for deregulation and cutting investments in these areas,” said Linda L. Hinton, Vice President of CWA District 4. “In states like Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, AT&T is failing the many communities that rely on the company’s services as a lifeline. We will not stand idly by while AT&T receives billions in tax benefits but turns a blind eye to our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. It’s time for AT&T to provide answers about where all that extra income is going.”

CWA supports continued investment in next-generation fiber and wireless networks. Meanwhile, AT&T has a statutory obligation to ensure “reasonably adequate service and facilities” in the state, yet through systemic disrepair of its traditional landline network, many Indiana customers may no longer rely upon AT&T to provide reliable telecommunications service.

Indiana largely deregulated public oversight of the telecommunications industry with the passage of Senate Bill No. 245 in 2006. Deregulation proponents argued that competition could replace regulatory protections that held AT&T accountable for the quality of its service and, by extension, the condition of its network. But as the evidence in this report makes clear, eliminating public oversight and relying solely on competition had failed to ensure that AT&T meet its statutory obligation to provide adequate and safe service to everyone in Indiana.

“I’ve seen first-hand how AT&T is abandoning communities like mine,” said Bradley D. Crain, Mayor of Covington, Indiana. “Our town is trying to grow and thrive, but AT&T is making it hard for us. How are our kids supposed to do their homework if they can’t access the Internet? How are families supposed to stay in touch if they don’t have basic phone services? Our community might not have the kind of wealth or influence big cities have, but this is the 21st century and AT&T should not be allowed to cut us off from the world.”

Because of the lack of public oversight, CWA is encouraging AT&T customers in Indiana to share information about internet and phone service issues on a new website, ATTBrokenPromises.org/IN, so that elected leaders in Indiana can better understand the problems that their constituents are facing and hold the AT&T accountable for its deteriorating network.

Read the new report here: AT&T:Abandoning Rural and Other Communities in Indiana

BACKGROUND

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.”

CWA’s contracts with AT&T’s Midwest and national Legacy T units expired over a year ago, the contract at AT&T Mobility in Puerto Rico has also expired, and negotiations will begin soon at AT&T Southeast, where the contract expires in August. AT&T has a history of constructive labor relations, but its insistence on eliminating long-term employees to reduce costs has undermined the trust of its workforce.

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