The Dallas Morning News reports that T-Mobile, which recently announced that it will close seven of its US call centers including two in Texas, will receive $3.6 million in job creation incentives from the State of Texas and a local economic development corporation. Meanwhile, the Communication Workers of America announced that has launched a campaign to keep the US call centers open even though T-Mobile is a non-union company that has resisted efforts by its workers to join CWA.
T-Mobile’s downsizing comes after a deal to merge with AT&T fell through last December. CWA, which supported the merger, warned federal regulators at the time that failure to approve the merger would result in job losses at T-Mobile, which is owned by Deutsche Telekom of Germany.
Six years ago, the Texas governor’s office offered T-Mobile incentive money to open a call center in Frisco, Texas, a Dallas suburb. The Frisco Economic Development Corporation also offered incentives. The rationale for the incentives was that the call center would create nearly 1,000 jobs.
T-Mobile’s Frisco call center at its peak exceeded expectations. At one time, the US’s fourth leading mobile communications company employed 1,200 workers at its Frisco call center.
But T-Mobile didn’t have the communication network to keep up with AT&T and Verizon, and as its business position eroded, it began eliminating jobs. When the company announced the call center closures in March, the company was employing only 615 people, well below the 855 jobs that its incentive agreement with the state called for.
Nevertheless, T-Mobile won’t have to return any incentive money the Morning News reports because “T-Mobile exceeded the number of jobs it had to create under the (Texas Enterprise Fund) agreement, according to people in the governor’s office.”
In addition to the Frisco closure, T-Mobile it terminating call centers in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Brownsville, Texas; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Lenexa, Kansas, Redmond, Oregon; and Thornton, Colorado. The closures, according to CWA, will eliminate “the livelihood for 3,300 families.” The layoffs become effective in June.
In addition to the Texas incentives, T-Mobile received job-creation incentives totalling more than $10 million from other state and local governments where it is closing call centers.
Call center workers at T-Mobile have been involved in a nationwide campaign to make T-Mobile a union company like its parent company Deutsche Telekom is back in Germany. They have been working with CWA to do so.
The T-Mobile workers’ organizing committee and CWA have decided to fight the closures. Last Friday, T-Mobile activists and supporters rallied at the Allentown call center to protest the call center’s closure, which will eliminate 400 local jobs.
“There’s no other job here that pays even remotely that well for the trade we’re involved in,” said Jim Brilhart, a technical support specialist in Allentown. “It’s difficult for a lot of us locally. This is a serious blow to the local economy.”
The German union that represents Deutsche Telekom workers, ver.di, has also joined the fight. On March 28, the New York Times ran a full-page add that the German union helped produce, urging Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile to rethink its anti-union stance and consider working with its employees to save jobs and produce better service.
CWA is also urging its members and others to support laid off T-Mobile workers facing layoffs. The union reports that T-Mobile has outsourced 6,000 jobs to other countries and has begun a letter writing campaign to convince T-Mobile CEO Philipp Humm to return some of these jobs to call centers slated for closure.
T-Mobile has said that it will consider laid off workers for positions at its call centers that remain open, but moving to a new city with no guarantees is a big gamble for workers who are already facing an uncertain future.
John Brookshire, a technical support specialist at the Frisco call center, said that he looked into relocating to other call centers. To avoid a big pay cut, he would have to move to Colorado Springs or Albuquerque, one is more than 700 miles away and the other more than 600. “Both those economies over there are a lot worse than Dallas, so that’s kind of a gamble,” Brookshire said.