In a blog posting last week, Public Knowledge attempted to mount an attack on AT&T on two fronts:  jobs and diversity.  Faced with the unpleasant reality that those whose very mission is to promote and protect those agendas – labor unions and civil rights organizations – have enthusiastically endorsed the AT&T/T-Mobile USA merger, PK patronizingly dismisses their advocacy as misinformed, going so far as to accuse them of “blindly follow[ing] AT&T off of a cliff.”  But ironically, even as PK arrogantly discredits those who support the merger, its analysis is cluttered with misinformation and irrelevancies.

For example, PK, using testimony from a state hearing, asserts that, since 2004, AT&T reduced its workforce by 40% in California while its access line loss was under 9% nationally.  Had PK bothered to check the facts it would have learned that AT&T lost over 11% of its total switched access lines last year alone, with an 11.2% access line loss in 2009 as well.  Indeed, over the past 9 years, AT&T has lost a full half of its access lines.  Yet from 2006 to 2010, AT&T employee headcount decreased by only approximately 12%.  So, far from cutting jobs at a rate that exceeds its access line losses, AT&T has lost access lines at a rate that far exceeds its headcount decreases.

PK also conveniently ignores the significant investment that will be necessary to expand our LTE network to reach over 97% of all Americans.  That investment will create jobs, and will have job-creating ripple effects throughout the economy, particularly in rural areas.  Recognizing these important ripple effects, the CWA commissioned a study that found that the transaction will create as many as 96,000 new, quality jobs, while accelerating broadband build out and improving wireless communications.  

Indeed, the transaction’s positive impact on jobs and economic growth is one of the reasons why it has received broad unprecedented support, from state governors to labor unions to high-tech and venture capital firms.

PK fares no better in its attempt to dismiss AT&T’s commitment to a diverse workforce. According to PK, civil rights organizations should not be so quick to credit AT&T for the legion of awards it has received for its commitment to diversity because AT&T’s current diversity programs are in some inexplicable way the outgrowth of a 40-year-old EEOC matter.  This claim is downright silly.  While there is nothing either relevant or noteworthy about a 40-year-old grievance, AT&T’s current and recent diversity record is indeed noteworthy.  It is a record that reflects our values as a company, and it is a record of which we are very proud.

AT&T has been repeatedly recognized for its commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce.  Let me identify just a few recent recognitions:  ranked  No. 4 in the 2010 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list; named one of the Top Companies for Executive Women by NAFE in 2011 and 2010; named one of the 40 Best Companies for Diversity by Black Enterprise magazine in 2010, based on responses from a survey administered to 1,000 major corporations; and ranked in the top 10 in the HACR Corporate Equality Index by the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, based on the inclusion of the Hispanic community in executive leadership and workforce representation.  For seven consecutive years, AT&T has earned the highest score of 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index.

Our supplier diversity program is also best-in-class.  In 2010, AT&T spent $9.2 billion with minority, women and disabled veterans business enterprises, representing 18.8 percent of our total procurement.  AT&T also actively supports procurement participation through targeted programs.  For example, in 2010, AT&T graduated seven minority women-owned businesses from the AT&T Women of Color Business Growth Initiative, a program designed to help women businesses gain needed certifications and training on core competencies necessary for success.

Last year, AT&T was named one of the Best 10 Corporations for Veteran-Owned Businesses by Vetrepreneur Magazine.  And just last month, “Operation Hand Salute,” an AT&T program for disabled-veteran business enterprises, graduated five DVBEs that now have the tools and expertise needed to win large corporate contracts.

AT&T has also demonstrated leadership in developing new programs for inclusion.  Just recently, AT&T celebrated the addition of six new employees at our Memphis Distribution Center.  These employees were the first graduates of AT&T’s new capABILITY Initiative, a program designed to help individuals with disabilities succeed in the workplace.  Working with Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation Services, AT&T developed a training program with work stations that mirrored those at our distribution center.  Candidates trained in a risk free environment to gain the needed experience to succeed on the job.  The program is expected to expand in the Fall.

And by the way, AT&T’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is not irrelevant, as PK argues.  The FCC has long sought to encourage diverse workforces through its Office of Communications Business Opportunities, whose mission is to promote participation by small entities, women, and minorities in the communications industry.  AT&T’s diversity record is fully consistent with those goals.

In the end, you don’t need to look back 40 years to find evidence of AT&T’s commitment to jobs, diversity and community involvement.  Instead, just look at the many opportunities we created in 2010 alone for minorities, women, veterans and the disability community.  There you’ll find the facts that really matter.

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