Labor Unions Clash with AT&T Over Job Outsourcing

Senior businessman rubbing his tired eyes

As Jobs Flee the Country, Workers Fight Back

Unionized call center workers traveled to the Dominican Republic to meet foreign workers in an attempt to highlight the drawbacks of AT&T Inc.’s (NYSE:T) outsourcing practice.

Roughly 38,000 unionized workers in the wireless and wired businesses of AT&T entered renegotiations as their contracts with the massive telecommunications company expired. Borrowing a tactic used by workers at fellow telecom giant Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), employees traveled to foreign call centers, where the company has outsourced jobs in the past, showing what they say reveals a “lose-lose” situation.

“AT&T’s offshoring practices are the ultimate ‘lose-lose’ scenario for everyone involved,” said Tom Runnion, vice president of the CWA’s District 9, in a statement.

According to Runnion, the current setup now costs Americans jobs, while providing foreign workers with low wages and customers with worsening customer service experiences.


This marks a shift in the formerly rather peaceful relationship between AT&T and its employees. The company has not suffered a labor strike since 2012, and even that only lasted for a short two days.

And AT&T’s recent history has been quite positive when dealing with contract negotiations. In April, 20,000 workers in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma ratified a four-year contract, leading to the 28th straight deal approved by AT&T and its unionized workers since 2015. Part of the agreement signed in April made room for 3,000 local hires for jobs that had been outsourced, mostly overseas.

AT&T, for its part, maintains that it has hired thousands of U.S. workers over the past few years. According to a spokesperson, the company hired more than 20,000 American workers for union positions in the past year alone. The company also recently announced its plan to open a new call center in Chicago.

The main contention revolves around the continuous exporting of jobs, according to the unions. They report that 12,000 jobs from the U.S. have been shipped overseas to foreign call centers since 2011. Jobs moved to countries in South America and Southeast Asia, where workers are paid as little as $1.60 per hour, according to the report.

As far as the union is concerned, far too many jobs are being exported from the states when American workers not only provide better service but also receive a fair wage compared to their foreign counterparts. AT&T, for its part, denies that it engages in such practices.


AT&T Workers Blast Outsourcing of Jobs to Dominican Republic,” Fortune, May 4, 2017.

Offshoring Customer Service,” The Communications Workers of America, May 2017.