May 22, 2018
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Maine union reps, workers tell T-Mobile to give back taxpayer money

Alex Barber | BDN
Alex Barber | BDN
Keri Evinson, Tim Dubnau, Tracy Allen, James McCoy, Sarah Watson and Adam Stanley stand in front of the T-Mobile Call Center in Oakland on Tuesday afternoon.
By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

OAKLAND, Maine — T-Mobile isn’t living up to its promises and it’s time to pay back its tax incentives, said union representatives and workers in front of the T-Mobile call center on Tuesday afternoon.

“It is simply outrageous that T-Mobile came into this community dangling the promise of good jobs,” said Keri Evinson, executive vice president of Communication Workers of America Local 1400.

Evinson said that T-Mobile promised to bring 800 jobs to Oakland and taxpayers gave the firm $7.4 million in tax breaks to make it happen. She said that only 750 jobs were filled at its peak and now fewer than 400 employees remain.

“Since they reneged on their promise, I think it’s a matter of simple fairness that they return the money to the taxpayers so Maine can provide job retraining to the hundreds of T-Mobile employees who have just lost their livelihoods,” said James McCoy of Waterville.

A T-Mobile representative sent out a press release disputing the union’s claims.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time the CWA has provided false information as part of their campaign against T-Mobile,” said the release. “Between 2005 and 2010, T-Mobile USA received $3.5 million from the State of Maine, as incentives for job creation in the State, in line with the Employment Tax Increment Financing program. T-Mobile has made no commitments or promises to create a specific number of jobs in Maine. To receive tax incentives for job creation, T-Mobile is required to file every year and the State awards incentives based on the number of employees paid the required amounts. T-Mobile has never laid off employees in its Oakland call center.”

McCoy and Adam Stanley, who both work at the Oakland call center, said employees there are anxious to stay on board until AT&T and T-Mobile merge.

Owen Smith, regional vice president for Maine AT&T, couldn’t comment on T-Mobile’s business decisions but said if the merger were to happen, “we pledged to repatriate to the United States 5,000 call center jobs that have been outsourced overseas by both T-Mobile and AT&T.”

Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, was supportive of the possible merger.

“It opens up the door for AT&T to have the opportunity to attain jobs,” said Connors. “I believe their acquisition will secure that.”

“AT&T has taken the high road and promised that they’re going to bring back 5,000 jobs in this hurting economy,” said Tim Dubnau, organizing coordinator for CWA District 1. “They’ve also agreed that if this merger goes through that they’re not going to lay anyone off in Maine, in this call center, or any other call center.”

The likelihood of the merger may be in doubt, however.

The $39 billion buyout of T-Mobile by AT&T, which would create the largest mobile phone company in the country, is being blocked by the Department of Justice on antitrust grounds. AT&T is suing the Department of Justice in federal court.

McCoy and Stanley acknowledged that they were taking a chance by speaking out against their employer.

“Since I still work at the call center, I am taking an obvious risk speaking out publicly today, but sometimes we can’t remain silent,” said Stanley. “Every week I watch my co-workers, friends and neighbors get fired, and every week, I see more and more empty chairs at our call center. It looks like a ghost town.”

McCoy couldn’t find a reason for the firing of his co-workers.

“The official response has been that their call volumes have been low and there’s no need for the additional work force,” he said. “We as employees will all tell you that the call volumes have all stayed the same. More and more every day we have to do the same work with less of our colleagues [there].”

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