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

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

OHIO - A new report from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) shows that AT&T is neglecting rural and suburban communities in Ohio, 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 Ohio jobs and failed to invest adequately in the next-generation networks that Ohio’s families and businesses need to access today’s data-intensive online services.

In many Ohio 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 Ohio 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 in Ohio, 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 Ohio by 20 percent, dropping from 2,093 technicians to just 1,672;
  • Reduced its total Ohio wireline workforce – outside technicians, inside technicians, call center workers, and administrative staff – by 21 percent, from 3,019 to 2,375 workers across the state;
  • Reduced its Ohio call center workforce by 50 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 show 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 all fiber and wireless networks. 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 Ohio customers may no longer rely upon AT&T to provide reliable telecommunications service.

Ohio reduced public oversight of the telecommunications industry with the passage of House Bill 402 in 2018. 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 has failed to ensure that AT&T meets its statutory obligation to provide “adequate and reliable” service to everyone in Ohio.

Over the years, customers have filed numerous complaints with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) regarding various service issues. Records obtained from PUCO by CWA show that since 2016, PUCO received more than 6,000 informal complaints from AT&T customers relating to such issues. CWA is also filing a complaint with PUCO calling for an investigation into the adequacy and reliability of service provided by AT&T which reflects the evidence in the new report.

In addition, several stakeholders have come forward to call out AT&T’s neglect of rural and suburban communities:

“Ohio retirees and seniors rely on basic telephone service to connect with services that sustain us in the community. The lack of maintenance by ATT, apparent in the CWA report and complaint, leaves basic landline communication at risk and thereby our health and safety at risk. Deregulating an industry ought not mean putting the public at risk of degraded or no service. It is time for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to act in the customer’s interest,” said Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund President Norm Wernet.

"The information detailed in the Communications Workers of America's report confirms what was clearly apparent in many of Ohio's cities, towns and villages. AT&T has been neglecting their network and customers for years. The lack of investment in upgrading AT&T's Ohio telecommunications infrastructure in large swaths of the state is alarming. The lack of service provided to traditional voice customers and unavailability of next generation fiber and high speed copper internet connections is a detriment to keeping Ohio's consumers well served, businesses competitive and workers employed. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio must act to hold AT&T accountable now," said State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan (OH-58).

"AT&T's neglect of its own infrastructures endangers the public and employees who do their jobs despite the peril. Thanks to the Communications Workers of America members and this investigation, people across Ohio now know that AT&T is failing to provide the reliable service our communities and business deserve. We cannot trust AT&T to do right by Ohioans. The PUCO should hold AT&T accountable with a thorough investigation into how their infrastructure has deteriorated into such a mess," said ProgressOhio Managing Director Tyler Dillon.

Because of the lack of public oversight, CWA is encouraging AT&T customers in Ohio to share information about internet and phone service issues on a new website, ATTBrokenPromises.org/Ohio, so that elected leaders in Ohio 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 Ohio

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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