Hundreds of workers represented by the Communications Workers of America union are staging a Saturday rally at AT&T's offices in downtown Detroit where they're planning to push the company to "invest in good U.S. jobs." Top CWA representatives and Michigan gubernatorial election candidate Gretchen Whitmer are planning to use the gathering to communicate a single message to the second-largest mobile service provider in the country: "no jobs, no deal." The remark references the prolonged negotiations between AT&T and CWA over new union contracts which affect some five-percent of the wireless carrier's workforce, though none in its actual wireless unit – AT&T Mobility.
Besides seeking renewals, the union members previously also criticized AT&T's job cuts, having crashed the company's annual shareholder meeting over the matter late last month. The protesters are accusing the company of not holding up its promise made before U.S. lawmakers passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, pointing to the firm's decision to close down its Detroit call center and lay off over one hundred employees with more than fifteen years of service each as proof of their claims.
"We're committed to reaching a fair agreement," an AT&T spokesperson said in an emailed statement, adding that the employees in question are presently making more than $120,000 annually on average, including both pay and benefits. "We're offering generous packages including annual wage increases, continuation [sic] of job security provisions that are virtually unheard of in the U.S., and comprehensive healthcare and retirement benefits," the official maintained. AT&T remains confident it will reach an agreement with CWA and is reflecting on the upcoming protest and recent such gatherings as "not an unexpected step" for any union to take in this type of talks. CWA apparently remains firm in its stance that the Dallas, Texas-based telecom giant isn't doing enough for its workers and continues to cut costs by offloading work overseas, pointing to its stateside employee numbers as being 29,000 down compared to two years ago. AT&T reported $38 billion in revenue and a free cash flow of $2.8 billion over the first quarter of the year. The company is still trying to conclude its proposed $85.6 billion acquisition of Time Warner which the Justice Department sued to block late last year, with a first-instance ruling on the matter being expected to arrive in the coming weeks.