AT&T Workers To Protest Launch Of iPhone X At New Apple Park HQ

There is typically an enormous amount of buzz and excitement immediately preceding the launch of a new iPhone, and today's unveiling is especially noteworthy because it marks the 10-year anniversary of Apple's game-changing handset. However, not everyone is looking forward to the big reveal, and we are not talking about just Android fans. Hundreds of AT&T employees and other members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) are planning to protest at Apple's new campus, where the next iPhone models (iPhone 8 and iPhone X) will be revealed.

CWA and its members take umbrage with AT&T raking in $1 billion in profits every year while continuing to "squeeze employees and customers" with low pay, sending jobs overseas, and poor customer service.

AT&T Store
Image Source: Flickr (Mike Mozart)

"[AT&T] has become one of the worst job destroyers in recent years, relying more and more on offshoring and outsourcing as the engine of their super-profits," CWA said in a statement. "AT&T has increasingly handed over the operations of its retail operations to third-party dealers that now represent 60 percent of all AT&T branded stores—a strategy that may be driving a growing pattern of customer complaints, according to a CWA report. At the same time, AT&T retail employees are watching their pay decline by thousands of dollars because the company manipulates their commission structure."

CWA also claims that AT&T executives are pushing for corporate tax reform that would allow the telecom to pay a lower tax rate than their own employees who make $16 an hour by saying  that job creation would follow.

So why form a protest at Apple's campus during a major iPhone launch event? AT&T has long been a partner and beneficiary of Apple's product line. In this instance, CWA sees the iPhone 8 and iPhone X launch as the start of a critical sales period that is expected to bring in billions of dollars for AT&T. It is also a high profile event that could give CWA and its members more exposure for their cause.

On that front, CWA has the support of US Senator Bernie Sanders, who posted a video to his Facebook page of his meeting with CWA and AT&T workers. Senator Sanders noted in his post that AT&T has refused to negotiate a fair new contract with workers while cutting 12,000 jobs in the US and shipping many of them overseas.

Update

After posting this article, we heard from AT&T with its side of the story. Marty Richter with AT&T Corporate Communications tells us the employees participating in the protest are in a "contract covering good-paying US jobs currently averaging nearly $70,000 a year in pay and benefits," and that some of them average over $115,000 annually.

"We’re engaged in bargaining a new contract and are offering terms, including annual wage increases and comprehensive healthcare and retirement benefits, similar to what other employees across the country have ratified in other contracts. We’re confident employees will be better off financially in their new contracts," Richter said.

Richter pointed out that AT&T has negotiated 32 different labor agreements since 2015 collectively covering around 145,000 employees. The one that is fueling today's protest is the only remaining contract AT&T has open, Richter says.

As to the complaints of offshoring, Richter tells us that AT&T provides more "good-paying, full-time US union jobs than any company in America," of which CWA and its members have benefited from "greatly."

"We have chosen to hire more than 135,000 union-represented employees in the US since 2011. Earlier this year we announced plans to hire 4,000 more union-represented employees across the country—including 3,000 sourced from work currently performed mostly offshore," Richter added.

Richter also pointed out that for the sixth time in a row, AT&T was singled out in 2016 as the largest capital investor in teh US, more than any other publicly traded company.

On the topic of taxes, Richter said AT&T collects and remits billions of dollars in taxes each year, which have totaled more than $100 billion from 2012 to 2016. He also notes that unlike some other companies, A&T did not require a bailout or other government support during the economic downturn.

Finally, Richter addressed the issue of using third party stores. He pointed out that AT&T's competitors do the same thing, and that AT&T is the only wireless outfit with a unionized workforce.

"At a time when consumers are increasingly choosing to do business online, and many major retailers are being forced to shutter stores, we continue to operate thousands of company-owned retail stores across the country. Fewer than five people left our business last year as the result of company-owned retail stores closing," Richter said.

Thumbnail Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (Luismt94)

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