AT&T pledges restored jobs if merger is approved, Oklahoma minority business advocates back federal regulatory consent

Critics of the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger, including Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken have contended savings and efficiencies projected – as part of AT&T’s drive to expand broadband wireless coverage into underserved areas – would come from new rounds of job cuts. Advocates strenuously counter that assertion. Today (August 31), they got some ammunition from the telecommunications company. 

AT&T explicitly stated in a nationwide press release it would “bring back 5,000 wireless call center jobs to the United States that today are outsourced to other countries.” AT&T said the announcement is “the largest commitment by an individual American company to bring jobs back to the U.S. since the economic crisis began in 2008.”
AT&T’s announcement came just days after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) edged ahead in merger deliberations. The proposed deal is worth $39 billion. 

In Oklahoma, the state president for AT&T has cast the deal as a dramatic opportunity to expand coverage into urban minority communities and the state’s far-flung rural areas often described as part of America’s “digital divide.” 

The explicit appeal to minority communities in the Sooner State has been successful. Francisco Trevino, president and CEO of the Greater Tulsa Hispanic Chamber, says his group aims to promote economic growth for Hispanic business owners in northeast Oklahoma. He contends “innovation and investment” are crucial components, and said the “lifeline” to growth is “increased access to technology.” 

Trevino joined advocates of the merger in a May letter to the FCC stating support for the merger. The National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also encouraged the Commission’s OK.
In Oklahoma City, Debra Ponder-Nelson of the Oklahoma Minority Supplier Development Council is a prominent supporter.
Nationally, minority advocates include the NAACP, Urban League, Action Network, Conference of Black Mayors, Black Caucus of State Legislators, Association of Black County Officials, and the Newspaper Publishers Association.
Other organizations pressing for the deal include 100 Black Men of America, The Hispanic Federation, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association, Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, League of United Latin American Citizens, the Japanese American Citizens League and the Asian Business Association. 

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin wrote members of the FCC to support merger approval, as did Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby. Agreement between the two executives is noteworthy at a time they are disagreeing over state water policy. 

“At a time when many Americans are struggling and our economy faces significant challenges, we’re pleased that the T-Mobile merger allows us to bring 5,000 jobs back to the United States and significantly increase our investment here,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO. “This merger and today’s commitment are good for our employees, our customers and our country.” 

The merger proposal has broad bipartisan support, including U.S. Reps. John Sullivan of Tulsa and Dan Boren of Muskogee, and U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Muskogee. The three legislators find themselves agreeing, in this case at least, with U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. of Illinois, and other liberal members of Congress. 

A compilation of supporters provided by the Internet Innovation Alliance points to “27 governors, more than 100 mayors, 11 state attorneys general, 79 Democratic Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and more than 150 chambers of commerce from 40 states, as well as a dozen labor unions and dozens of high-tech companies, such as Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Oracle.”
Labor union backing for mergers has been rare in regulatory history, but in this case the Communications Workers of America (CWA, AFL-CIO) is on board. 

Comments sent to CapitolBeatOK included the reflections of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “These jobs will provide quality wages and benefits and good working conditions for U.S. workers — exactly what’s needed to help turn around our struggling economy. Instead of sitting on more than $2 trillion in assets and sending jobs overseas while millions of Americans are out of work, working people are looking for U.S. employers to follow AT&T’s lead. If more employers took this kind of action, we could begin to move our economy forward and strengthen the middle class.” 

CWA President Larry Cohen observed, “cuts in wages, benefits, and jobs have become the new normal in America, so that when a company like AT&T takes action to bring back quality jobs, it’s big news.”
Opposition to the merger includes a leading AT&T competitor, Spring, and the Rural Celluar Association (RCA). 

Nationally and in Oklahoma, the possible combination could have implications both for job retention and employment growth. 

Michael de la Merced, reporting in the New York Times today detailed the existing workforce of the two telecom companies. AT&T “had about 265,410 employees as of Jan. 31. T-Mobile, now a unit of Deutsche Telekom, employs about 42,000 in the United States.”