Presidential animus toward the cable news channel is nothing new. However, Trump’s silence about AT&T, CNN’s parent company’s plans to lay off hundreds of American workers and force them to first retrain their foreign replacements is quite something.
According to documents obtained by Axios, the telecommunications giant is gearing up “to send thousands into the new year hunting for new jobs after assigning them to train their own foreign replacements.” Yet, President Trump, who four years ago pledged to end “outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney in Florida when Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements.” He was so adamant about the issue that former Disney IT workers appeared at campaign rallies.
Opportunistic firings of American workers are nothing new for AT&T. A similar pre-Christmas worker purge occurred in December 2017 when more than 2,000 employees nationwide were terminated despite the company’s promise to use benefits gained from tax reform to create more jobs. They have created more jobs, unfortunately those jobs increasingly are going to foreign labor located outside the United States.
AT&T spokesman Jim Kimberly would not disclose to Axios how many of those terminated full-time positions might be outsourced to contractors, but they explained that the company is “continuously working to be more efficient in our operations.”
Kimberly’s sentiments were an echo of a message sent by Jeff McElfresh, the head of Technology & Operations at AT&T, in January 2019. In a memo obtained by Vice, he said that “to win in this new world, we must continue to lower costs and keep getting faster, leaner, and more agile” and that “includes reductions in our organization, and others across the company.”
And while they were laying off U.S. workers, it seems AT&T was also dipping into the H-1B pool. According to Bloomberg Law, during the first nine months of FY2019, AT&T had at least 3,700 foreign workers certified, which earned it a spot in the top five users of the visas. In addition, Axios notes that AT&T inked partnerships with IBM and Tech Mahindra – both of which were in the top 10 companies to request H-1B high-skilled worker visas.
If the revenue produced by the tax cuts and firing of American labor were not enough, the telecom giant has done quite well in landing contracts with government agencies. In January 2018, AT&T was awarded a highly “coveted classified tech” contract with the National Security Agency – a deal worth $3.3 billion – but only after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled in the company’s favor in a dispute over the contract bid.
And in July, the company landed a $984 million contract to handle network upgrades for the Department of Justice.
Sara Blackwell, a Florida-based employment lawyer who represented some Disney workers also forced to train their replacements, told Axios, “American workers are tired of waiting for President Trump to do something on this issue.”
It might be time for President Trump to call out AT&T with the same energy which he criticizes Disney and CNN. Even better, maybe all three can be held to account for betraying hard-working Americans.