- Katie Hall American-Statesman Staff
A national worker’s rights union is suing AT&T on behalf of 50 employees in Austin and Bastrop who were laid off as AT&T announced firings across the United States.
News of the firings spread rapidly, fueled by national outrage, following AT&T’s earlier announcement that the company was doling out $1,000 bonuses to 200,000 of its employees in celebration of the Republican Party’s tax overhaul.
Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday in the Austin division of U.S. District Court. In the suit, the organization characterizes the layoffs as “unprecedented.”
The last day on the payroll for these employees is Thursday, the suit says.
The union found out about the layoffs on Dec. 12, and employees were notified on Dec. 14, “less than two weeks before the employees’ Christmas holiday,” the suit says.
AT&T’s “selection of the timing and schedule for this massive deprivation of employment was an extraordinary act of corporate cruelty,” the lawsuit says.
The suit demands that a judge require AT&T to reinstate all these laid-off employees.
According to the suit, employees were fired in the following areas within the court’s jurisdiction:
“The designation of 50 employees for layoff in Austin/Bastrop, TX, is the largest single group,” the suit says.
The lawsuit argues that AT&T primarily laid these people off to diminish the union’s collective bargaining power in its district.
“The fact is the allegations in the lawsuit are baseless,” AT&T said in a statement. “We comply with the terms of our collective bargaining agreements and did so in this case.”
The lawsuit says that AT&T is subcontracting out work that the laid-off employees are qualified to perform.
The suit adds that an additional 561 AT&T employees from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas will also be cut on Feb. 17, but does not specify what jobs will be affected.
AT&T released the following statement in response:
“We’re adding people in many parts of our business that are experiencing higher customer demand. At the same time, technology improvements are driving higher efficiencies and there are some areas where demand for our legacy services continues to decline, and we’re adjusting our workforce in some of those areas.
“We’ll work to find other AT&T jobs for as many affected employees as possible. Regarding premises technicians, we adjust the workforce based on changing market dynamics, which vary from region to region. In some regions we are hiring these same resources and these employees have the opportunity to transfer to those locations. It’s important to note that we still have thousands more premises technicians than we did two years ago.
“It’s important to note that we remain committed to Texas and continue to hire here. We hired nearly 3,700 employees in the state in 2016, more than 2,400 this year, and we’re currently hiring about 360 more across the state.”
Update: This story has been updated to add a statement from AT&T and to correct a link in the first paragraph.