WASHINGTON -- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) sent a letter Monday to Congressman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the current ranking member and incoming Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, urging the congressman to investigate how AT&T and other major corporations are spending the enormous tax cut benefits they received from the 2018 tax bill. Congressman Neal has promised to hold hearings on the tax bill in his new role as Chair of the Committee.
The letter notes that AT&T broke several promises to the American people and its workers by eliminating good, middle-class jobs -- after it lobbied for the tax bill on the premise of creating jobs and raising wages.
CWA President Chris Shelton writes in the letter: “With an eye to the oversight and policy work you will undertake next year as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, I write in full support of your promise to hold hearings on the $1.5 trillion tax cut forced through last year. CWA respectfully requests that your hearings and oversight efforts include an investigation into what major corporations such as AT&T are doing with their windfall from the tax cuts, following unfulfilled promises to American workers on wages and jobs.”
Before the Republican tax bill passed, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson pledged $1 billion in tax savings toward creating “7,000 good jobs for the middle class.” Instead, ongoing layoffs, including a new round of call center closures in the Midwest announced last week, have compounded workers’ concerns about the company’s practice of shifting work to low-wage overseas contractors, which many believe is hurting the quality of service and damaging AT&T’s brand.
Overall jobs numbers at AT&T are down over 20,000 from two years ago, and an updated analysis shows that AT&T cut over 10,000 jobs since the tax cuts took effect. A report from CWA found that AT&T has closed 44 call centers and eliminated 16,000 call center jobs in the last seven years. The company’s touted investment of just $1 billion on capital projects and one-time $1,000 bonuses to employees is equivalent to just 7% of its expected annual profit from the cuts. After posting $4.7 billion in profits in the third quarter of 2018, the company is forecasting an even stronger cash flow in 2019 and just announced it is boosting its quarterly dividend by two percent.
In the letter, Shelton requests an investigation to answer specific questions from workers nationwide: “We would like to know, as the ground zero in your investigation, what is AT&T doing with these tax cut benefits? Why does it continue to eliminate good, middle-class jobs, in favor of lower paid contractors here and especially overseas? Understanding why AT&T and companies like it have failed to follow through on their promises will undoubtedly inform your efforts to rewrite the tax law, so that instead of a giveaway to the rich, it truly does ensure the retention and creation of good jobs in the United States.”
CWA has been leading the charge to hold AT&T and other corporations accountable to their tax bill promises by publicly challenging them to reveal their spending plans for the tax windfall. CWA and other major unions filed information requests at over five companies and took action against companies like AT&T over its broken tax bill promises.
After AT&T refused to provide this information, CWA filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Earlier this month, Trump-appointed NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb dismissed CWA’s complaint. Since the NLRB has taken the position that ensuring that these tax savings benefit workers as promised goes beyond CWA’s role as a union, CWA is calling on Chairman Neal and Congress to use their investigative powers to ensure that workers receive the benefits they were promised.
The letter to Congressman Neal is available online here.