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

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

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

In many Wisconsin communities, AT&T voice service is a lifeline for customers, yet in most 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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin, 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 has:

  • Reduced its outside plant technicians in Wisconsin by 26 percent, dropping from 909 technicians to just 673;
  • Reduced its total Wisconsin wireline workforce – outside technicians, inside technicians, call center workers, and administrative staff – by 23 percent, from 1,677 to 1,288 workers across the state;
  • Reduced its Wisconsin call center workforce by 21 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 Wisconsin customers may no longer rely upon AT&T to provide reliable telecommunications service.

Wisconsin’s elimination of public oversight of the telecommunications industry in 2011 has contributed to this deterioration and lack of investment. 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 the report indicates, eliminating public oversight and relying solely on competition has failed to ensure that AT&T meets its statutory obligation to provide adequate service and facilities to everyone in Wisconsin.

"The result of AT&T's divestment in Wisconsin's workforce has led to major service problems for customers and a weaker communication network for the state. Shipping call center jobs overseas and deferred maintenance is a recipe for disaster and Wisconsinites deserve better," said Marina Dimitrijevic, Working Families Party Director, Milwaukee County Supervisor.

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

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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