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Laid Off Call Center Workers, Elected Officials to AT&T: Stop Cutting and Outsourcing Call Center Jobs

Workers Rally in Front of Shuttered AT&T Call Center to Demand Passage of New York State Call Center Jobs Act to Protect Middle Class Jobs and Ensure AT&T Is Not Rewarded With Tax Breaks for Moving Work Elsewhere
Friday, March 15, 2019

SYRACUSE, NY – Dozens of laid off AT&T call center workers – many of whom have been at the company for more than twenty years - advocates and elected officials rallied today to urge Albany to pass a bill that would stop tax breaks for companies that ship call center jobs out of state. The rally, outside the call center AT&T recently announced it was closing, brought together the Save NY Call Center Jobs Coalition an advocacy campaign formed by community organizations, civic leaders and labor groups, including the Communications Workers of America.

The campaign calls for the passage of the New York State Call Center Jobs Act, which would impact call center employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent workers.  Employers, like AT&T and others, would be required to notify the Department of Labor if they intend to relocate at least 30% of call volume in a year. Those companies would lose all grants, loans, tax benefits and state contracts. The bill would also ensure that all state business-related call center work is performed by New York State companies.

“It is time to stop rewarding companies that move good jobs out of New York and protect families and communities across New York, said Dennis G. Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1. “If Albany does not swiftly pass this common-sense bill, more and more call center workers will become at risk of losing their jobs. We are hopeful legislators will take this opportunity to make it clear that companies can’t get tax breaks for shipping jobs out of New York and give New York families some economic security. 

Last year the bill passed in the Assembly and was supported by a majority of State Senators.  With new leadership in the Senate, advocates are hopeful that the bill will pass this year.

Although AT&T lobbied for the corporate tax bill and said it would create more good middle-class jobs and raise wages, the company has eliminated 11,780 jobs nationwide since the tax cuts took effect. A recent report from CWA found that AT&T has closed 44 call centers and eliminated 16,000 call center jobs nationwide in the last seven years.

“I was completely devastated when I heard the call center was closing. I have been with the company for over twenty years, I believed management when they said we weren’t going to be next and to have the rug pulled out from under me and my family is appalling. I have a child who is a senior in High School and going off to college and I don’t know how I am going to be able to pay for it. This needs to end. I urge legislators to protect New York workers and families and pass this bill,” said Gina McClurkon, local laid off AT&T Call Center Worker.

“Working families in Central New York face larger hurdles to success and stability. Big corporations continue to profit off of the taxpayers and then leave workers high and dry. The loss of these 150 local, high paying jobs in Syracuse is devastating to our families and our economy. These employees were not given a real choice: either they picked up their families and moved to Florida, or they lost their job. We must work to safeguard our communities against the outsourcing of jobs to other states or countries. The Call Center Jobs Act is one step we can take to keep these jobs right here in New York. Companies should not be able to benefit from tax breaks or incentives in New York and then turn around and lay off our workers,” said Senator Rachel May.

“When New York State companies receive tax incentives only to ship jobs out-of-state or overseas, it is simply unacceptable,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “The ‘Save New York Call Center Jobs Act’ is a common-sense, jobs-protection bill that will ensure New York taxpayers are not left footing the bill when corporations outsource jobs overseas after exploiting state contracts and incentives. The message is simple: if you ask for help from the state, you need to create and retain jobs for hardworking New Yorkers.”

"Every year that we fail to enact the New York Call Center Jobs Act, countless well-paying jobs are lost as more businesses take them overseas with reckless abandon," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. "Protecting call center jobs is the right thing to do for middle-class New Yorkers working hard to put food on the table, it's good for New York and it keep jobs where they belong. I look forward to continuing to fight alongside CWA and my colleagues to push this bill across the finish line this session."

“While a business climate may change and employment needs may vary, there is no reason that a major company cannot give advance notice and be transparent when it comes to closing or relocating New York call centers. Call centers often employ a larger number of people than a traditional business and therefore the community suffers a greater impact when a call center is closed or moved. Providing advance notice should be a common courtesy to employees before a closure and allows them the time they need to decide if something such as a relocation is tenable or if searching for a new job is a better option,” said Assemblymember Pamela Hunter.

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said, "It’s unconscionable that an already highly profitable company is receiving a $20 billion windfall from the federal corporate tax cut, and then upends the lives of 150 hardworking men and women by shutting down its call center in Syracuse. This is precisely why the New York Call Center Jobs Act is a priority for organized labor. This legislation provides a reasonable and rational approach to prevent the ongoing outsourcing of jobs from New York State to other locations."

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Coalition Members:

  • Communications Workers of America
  • SEIU 32BJ
  • Working Families Party
  • Citizen Action New York
  • Coalition for Economic Justice
  • Community Voices Heard
  • Long Island Progressive Coalition
  • Labor Religion Coalition
  • Strong Economy for All
  • ALIGN
  • Long Island Jobs with Justice
  • New York State Nurses Association
  • Westchester for Change