Protesters Outside AT&T Shareholders’ Meeting Demand Higher Wages, Less Outsourcing

DALLAS (The Dallas Morning News/TNS) -

Hundreds of AT&T workers rallied for higher wages and protested the outsourcing of jobs outside the telecommunications giant’s annual shareholders meeting Friday at Moody Performance Hall in downtown Dallas.

The rally was organized by the Communication Workers of America, which represents more than 150,000 AT&T technicians, customer service and call center representatives and retail store employees. About 14,000 workers across five Midwest states are negotiating their contracts with AT&T.

Union leaders argue that AT&T is cutting middle-class jobs in the U.S. and shipping them overseas, even as the company saves billions of dollars from tax reform. In a recent report, the union said AT&T is transferring call center jobs to low-wage workers in other countries and technician jobs to cheaper contractors. It said AT&T eliminated more than 16,000 call-center jobs in the last seven years.

But AT&T said it wants to reach a fair labor agreement and is committed to hiring additional union-represented workers in the U.S. The company had 252,000 employees as of Jan. 31, with 46 percent represented by unions, according to a regulatory filing.

Company spokesman Marty Richter said AT&T hired nearly 87,000 people in the U.S. in the past three years. He said AT&T used its tax reform savings to pay out $200 million in bonuses to frontline employees and $800 million to fund employee and retiree medical trusts.

The company is transforming to keep up with technology and changing customer habits. Its network is becoming software-based rather than hardware-based. Fewer customers are paying for cable and more are signing up for DirecTV Now, an internet-based streaming service that doesn’t require a technician visit, cable box or satellite dish.

Richter said that’s changing the makeup of AT&T’s workforce, too. But he said most union-represented employees have a job offer guarantee that promises another job if AT&T cuts their current one.