Tents return as Occupy Atlanta protests AT&T layoffs

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson received $27 million last year and the telecommunications giant saw its revenues soar to $126.7 billion.

Yet, last month the Fortune 500 corporation announced hundreds of layoffs as part of their “business changes” with 740 union workers, in the southern region alone, facing pink slips in an economy that has a record number of families in poverty, jobless and in foreclosure.

Inspired by the Occupy movement and protests by Verizon workers, union members in Atlanta refused to take the layoffs sitting down. They sent the company a letter giving them until Feb. 13 to rollback the lay-offs. 

Protesters from Occupy Atlanta, various unions, Jobs with Justice and other groups showed up at AT&T headquarters in Atlanta to hear the company’s answer. Twelve protesters staged a sit in afterwards and were arrested.

Tents now line the sidewalk outside the corporate giant’s building. Protesters vow to stay until the company rescinds the layoffs.

Listed as the second most profitable company in the world by CNNMoney, AT&T is attempting to win public opinion by saying the laid off workers have a “guaranteed job offer” – if qualified – in its unionized wireless division.

However, protesters say the job offers come with less pay and benefits.

Communications Workers of America Local 3204 President Walter Andrews said the jobs offered would mean substantial financial sacrifice for the workers.

“They make less wages, their benefits are awful the working conditions are deplorable,” Andrews said.

“Yes, you have a job offer, but your pay is cut over half and your benefits are cut in half and you have no more pension.”

Protester Matt Magnuson told the media people have to hold corporations like AT&T accountable.

“To tell these 740 workers that we’re going to fire you, but we’ll hire you at half the pay with no benefits, those are your options, you can either have no job or you can have a job at half the pay with no benefits in this current situation, and no one’s there to tell the corporations that that’s not OK,” he said.

Occupy Atlanta said the fight at AT&T is part of the occupy movement’s mission.

“We are out here for love of our fellow persons, the 99%. We are here to keep good jobs for the people,” according to a statement on the website.

“At a time when unemployment is at a record high in the state of Georgia, we can’t afford to lose one more job.”

Photo: Communications Workers of America Local 3204 President Walter Andrews speaks during a press conference outside AT&T headquarters, Feb. 13. (From Occupy Atlanta video)


Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano had been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor, and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by the International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women, and Illinois Woman Press Association.