Union sees AT&T buyout of T-Mobile as good for workers

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WASHINGTON - AT&T's planned $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile from that wireless carrier's owner, Deutsche Telekom, could open the way for unionization of the thousands of T-Mobile workers who have been denied a voice on the job, the Communications Workers of America says.

That's because CWA has a "company neutrality" agreement built into its contract with AT&T, which also covers any other company that the Dallas-based AT&T buys.

"CWA and the labor movement in Germany, have partnered to support T-Mobile workers in the U.S., and the global union movement has been a strong supporter of this effort," CWA President Larry Cohen said. "CWA and ver.di, the German union, formed a joint union - TU - that represents T-Mobile workers on both sides of the Atlantic. 

"Hundreds of TU members in the U.S. will welcome this news since of all the possible partners, AT&T will mean better employment security and a management record of full neutrality toward union membership and a bargaining voice," he continued. "For T-Mobile USA workers who want a voice in their workplace, this acquisition can provide a fresh start with T-Mobile management. Some 42,000 AT&T Mobility employees are union represented," he noted.

"If the deal goes through, the same principle of management neutrality that AT&T follows would apply, so workers could make up their own minds about bargaining rights and a union voice," CWA Communications Director Candice Johnson said.

The proposed deal, approved by the boards of both companies and announced March 20, would make AT&T the largest provider of mobile and high-speed broadband service in the U.S. In return for T-Mobile, Deutsche Telekom would get $25 billion in cash and 8 percent of AT&T's stock, worth $14 billion. That would make it the largest single AT&T stockholder and give the German company an AT&T board seat. By German law, ver.di has a seat on Deutsche Telekom's board.

But U.S. regulators must still approve the deal, and they're encountering opposition from T-Mobile customers who contend AT&T provides inferior service.

CWA's Johnson said the union's analysis of the deal showed it was good for the T-Mobile workers, including the 23,000 the union has been trying to organize - over company opposition and labor law-breaking - for years. It leaves AT&T debt-free, meaning it can invest money in hiring more workers to expand and buildout its wireless broadband network, she pointed out. T-Mobile's other suitor, Sprint, "is notoriously anti-union" and would have had to borrow billions both to buy T-Mobile and to merge the two firms' operating systems, which are different from one another. AT&T and T-Mobile have the same system.

Image: Communications Workers of America // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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