Unions seek probe of Sprint-T-Mobile merger
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee which writes telecom legislation. | AP

WASHINGTON—The Communications Workers, the Writers Guild of America-West and 10 other consumer and communications organizations are asking the incoming Democratic chairmen of U.S. House committees that handle anti-trust issues to call congressional hearings, soon, on the proposed Sprint merger with T-Mobile.

In their letter, authored by CWA President Lonnie Shelton, the groups’ leaders say the $146 billion merger would reduce the number of nationwide wireless telecommunications providers from four to three, cutting competition and driving up prices for consumers and firms that want to use wireless communications to market their wares.

In submitting such merger applications to federal authorities, companies typically deny charges that they’re cutting competition while extolling economies they would gain by ending duplication of functions – without mentioning ending the jobs that go with those functions.

That’s what T-Mobile and Sprint claim, without of course mentioning jobs, in their merger crusade. They say they would save on economies of scale in installing 5G wireless networks. But the group’s letter says those savings are an illusion because they’re both already building the networks.

“Announcing hearings to examine the biggest single wireless telecommunications merger, and one of the biggest mergers in history would be an excellent first step to implementing your vision of stronger anti-trust enforcement, protecting consumers, promoting competition and standing up for American workers,” their letter to Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said.

Nadler is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, which handles anti-trust legislation. Pallone is the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which writes telecom legislation. Both previously called for hearings on the Sprint-T-Mobile merger, but their demands, earlier this year, fell on deaf ears in the GOP-controlled House.

A month before the union sent its letter to Nadler and Pallone, CWA launched a website, TmobileSprintFacts.org, and a twitter handle @TMSprintFacts, to let members lobby against the merger.

“The proposed merger would result in 30,000 lost jobs, higher prices for consumers, and still leave rural America without access to high-speed broadband,” CWA research and telecommunications policy director Debbie Goldman said.

The website is intended to provide “the facts” in the face of unsubstantiated claims of the merger’s benefits, she said.

CWA also opposed the merger in filings with New York and California regulators. With 57,000 members in California, it asked to be a party in the state utility commission’s hearings on the proposed merger. “given their impact on local telecommunications service and competition.”

Besides the two unions, other signers of the letter to the two lawmakers included Common Cause, the National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Reports – which is unionized – and the Center for Media Justice.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.