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IL Telecom Workers Fight to Keep Their AT&T Jobs

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Monday, August 14, 2023   

Hundreds of workers employed in the Midwest by a telecommunications giant are facing the possibility of losing their jobs since the company announced its intention to close some of its call centers.

In Illinois and four other states, members of the Communications Workers of America District 4 have been at their jobs with AT&T for years, even decades, and they are voicing concerns over the future of their livelihoods. The closures also affect workers in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Curt Hess, assistant to the District 4 vice president for the Communications Workers of America, said the company's decision will hurt some employees more than others.

"These are jobs that are predominantly held by females; a lot of working mothers, and there's a lot of minority presence," Hess explained. "These communities that this work's getting vacated, out of convenience for the company, is going to have an impact on the communities."

AT&T has said it is undergoing "targeted reductions" to focus more on its growth areas and less on legacy products with lower customer demand. The union claims the company has closed more than 45 call centers nationwide since 2011, and has launched a petition drive asking AT&T to "save our centers."

Hess believes consolidating operations and cutting costs are the reasons AT&T has said it will transfer some jobs to Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Texas. He added one concern is making sure the company is willing to help its workforce gain the technology skills needed to stay competitive.

"We do everything we can to communicate with the company, to have our folks be part of the new technology, and we'll continue to push that fight," Hess asserted. "It's a hard thing to do to get a corporation to commit to folks when it's so much easier just to use technology as the excuse."

The union represents people in telecommunications in a variety of fields, from airlines to health care, and public service to manufacturing. Overall in Illinois, only about 14% of workers are unionized, according to last year's "Illinois Future of Work Task Force Report."

Disclosure: The Communications Workers of America contributes to our fund for reporting on Human Rights/Racial Justice, and Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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