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Technology / telecommunications

Union Says AT&T Suit Could Damage Democrats

photo of Juliana Gruenwald
September 14, 2011

The head of the union representing AT&T’s wireless workers said on Wednesday the Obama administration’s decision to file a lawsuit aimed at blocking AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA could damage Democrats politically.

“It will have consequences,” Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen said following an appearance on C-Span’s “The Communicators” program set to air on Saturday. During the show, he said he thinks the Justice Department’s decision to file the lawsuit “does have political aspects to it.”


 

The CWA supports the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, a $39 billion deal that would create the largest telecommunications company in the country. AT&T is the only unionized national wireless carrier, with the exception of about 75 Verizon Wireless workers in New York. Cohen said his union supports the deal because of commitments AT&T has made to build out its wireless broadband network, particularly in rural areas, a pledge to move 5,000 T-Mobile call center jobs back to the United States, and promises to not cut any U.S.-based call-center jobs in place when the merger is approved.

Cohen said after his C-Span appearance that he expects CWA to endorse President Obama’s reelection bid. However, he said that as the administration and Democrats try to push to create more jobs, the Justice lawsuit will provide Republican candidates with fodder to argue that the administration’s regulatory policies are harming job creation.

Meanwhile, Sprint’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Vonya McCann said during the same program that the merger, which her firm opposes, would hurt competitors such as Sprint that still need access to infrastructure controlled by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

She said Sprint’s decision to file its own lawsuit to block the merger did not reflect a lack of confidence in the Justice Department’s lawsuit but instead would provide Sprint an opportunity to provide its own input and expertise on the matter.

McCann would not comment on whether Sprint, the third-biggest wireless provider, is interested in seeking a merger with No. 4 T-Mobile if the deal with AT&T fails.

Cohen said Sprint was widely viewed as weighing its own merger with T-Mobile before T-Mobile struck the deal with AT&T. Cohen, who criticized Sprint’s employment practices, said a Sprint-T-Mobile merger would be troubling to the union.



 

 

 

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