AT&T got a tax windfall and gave me a lay-off notice

By Darren Kelly, Special to CALmatters

I’m a 56-year-old Air Force veteran who has lived and worked in the Sacramento area for close to 30 years.

I was a premises technician at AT&T who installed cable and internet services in our customers’ homes. I’m proud that I helped make AT&T a leading, reliable telecommunications provider in the Sacramento area.

Like many of my coworkers, I built a good life here with my family because of my middle class, union job at AT&T. I’m not rich, but I’ve been able to put my 18-year-old daughter through college, and thought when the time comes, I’d be able to retire with dignity and stability.

That’s all in jeopardy now.

In May, AT&T told 368 technicians throughout California, including me and many of my coworkers in Sacramento, that we need to move to the San Francisco Bay Area or lose our jobs.

Every Californian knows the Bay area is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Even with housing prices falling there for the first time in seven years, the median home cost in the Bay area is still far more expensive than it is in Sacramento.

With my union job I could live comfortably in Sacramento, but I don’t make enough to live in the Bay Area. My whole life and world are here in Sacramento. My wife has worked for the San Juan Unified School District for over 20 years and is three years away from retiring.

AT&T knows it wasn’t giving us any real choice at all: the company laid us off.

I am devastated, not only because of the threats AT&T made to my livelihood but also because the company lied to me and all its employees. There are tens of thousands of us in California.

AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

I saw him on television painting a bright picture of all AT&T could do with its extra income. He promised to create 7,000 new, good-paying jobs as a result of tax reform. Instead, since the tax law went into effect, AT&T has eliminated over 23,000 jobs and relocated thousands of others far away from their families and communities.

AT&T received a $21 billion windfall from the tax bill, and that does not even take into account the company’s projected $3 billion in annual tax savings going forward or how the company slashed capital investments by $1.4 billion in 2018.

What’s more, AT&T’s top executives received multi-million dollar pay raises last year.

The fact that the company still chose to eliminate so many American jobs is more mind-boggling than living comfortably in San Francisco on middle-class wages.

Our union, the Communications Workers of America, has been urging Congress to investigate how AT&T has been using its tax windfall since the company has yet to provide any real answers that add up. AT&T needs to explain its broken promises to those of us who’ve already lost our jobs and workers who worry their jobs will be the next one to go.

A Congressional investigation may not change my situation, but it may help prevent more families from going through what mine and others in our community are experiencing right now.

Darren Kelly is an AT&T employee and member of Communications Workers of America, [email protected]. He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

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