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

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


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.