Commentary: AT&T outsourcing a problem for workers, customers

By Carissa Moore

I’m a call center auditor at AT&T in Bothell, and every day I review thousands of customer interactions all over the country. I’ve been with the company for almost four years and love my job, but the truth is that my co-workers and I, and the customers we serve, are being taken advantage of.

As one of the 21,000 AT&T wireless workers fighting for a fair contract, we are speaking out about the need for good jobs and quality customer service at the company.

AT&T has moved more than 60 percent of its wireless retail jobs to third-party dealers that create profit for the company but cause major headaches for workers and customers alike. Workers at these stores, a number of which are right here in the Seattle area, are often paid minimum wage or slightly above. And in order to earn commissions they face intense pressure to meet sales goals that incentivize unethical practices and can also cause mistakes. Workers at corporate stores then spend countless hours resolving problems, which cuts into their pay.

The issues caused by these third-party stores are so prevalent that the number of complaints became unmanageable for my department at one point last year and everyone had to work four hours of mandatory overtime per week. Many of my coworkers had to scramble to find child care for their kids.

In the last few years, AT&T has grown its fleet of third-party dealers to the tune of 3,360 stores, and while it’s taken some steps to improve oversight, it’s not gone far enough.

From my vantage point, reviewing countless customer accounts every day, the picture is clear: AT&T’s third-party dealers are misleading and misinforming people of all ages and backgrounds in Seattle and across the country. I’ve seen customers get pushed to add products and services they don’t need, under the guise of being free, and receive unexpected charges and activation fees that weren’t disclosed that increase in their monthly bills. My department provides AT&T with evidence of these problems caused by third-party dealers, but they continue to go unchecked.

AT&T has not just outsourced retail jobs – it’s also cut more than 12,000 call center jobs, offshoring thousands of jobs to Mexico, the Philippines, India and other countries, and moving others to parts of the U.S. that pay lower wages.

When I started working at AT&T, there were 300 representatives on my floor. But four years later, I’ve seen AT&T purge more than half of the staff. Now there are only 120 representatives left. On another floor, AT&T has cut the number of workers that provide tech support in half.

Job security is a big deal to me is as it is for so many working Americans. I’m engaged to be married this summer, and have dreams of starting a family someday. But with the constant insecurity and unpredictability of work at AT&T, I wonder if I have a future at the company.

How can AT&T show such a lack of accountability to customers and workers, and allow these stores to hide behind its logo with no fear of repercussions? These problems have gone on far too long.

Thousands of AT&T workers like me — including retail and call center workers and technicians — are tired of the company obstructing our ability to provide customers with the quality service they deserve, cutting our pay and health care benefits and outsourcing the jobs we need to support our families.

Over the past two months, we’ve been mobilizing in unprecedented numbers to fight for good jobs. We’ve rallied outside major stores from Seattle and San Diego to Boston and New York to make sure the company knows we’re not standing for its offshoring and outsourcing of American jobs.

Because we’re committed to doing whatever it takes to win a fair contract, we’ve been holding pickets outside AT&T call centers and retail stores. At the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Dallas, we gave the company 72-hours notice to end our contract extension, making a strike more likely than ever before. We’re letting investors and executives know that we’re more frustrated than ever and won’t let A&T stand in the way of good jobs and customer service.

In a recent ad buy in top national papers, AT&T said “No company is more invested in America’s future than AT&T.” Well, AT&T, we’re calling on you to stand by your words.

Your 38,000 wireless, wireline and DirecTV employees are demanding respect and support for all of us who help you make over $1 billion per month. And we’ll continue to fight at the bargaining table for a fair contract that supports quality customer service too.

AT&T, which side are you on?

Carissa Moore lives in Everett.

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