It’s no secret – American trade unions have been hemorrhaging membership for decades. Outside government, there really is very little future for unions; in the private sector, they are a cost that generally can not be sustained.
And so when the unions can find a hidden trove of tens of thousands of workers that can be unionized in one fell swoop, it’s like candy at Christmas.
The proposed merger between ATT and TMobile will release just such a stockpile of fresh potential dues-paying recruits. ATT is unionized; TMobile is not, but being the absorbed entity, its employees – 20,000 of them – would be potential union recruits.
That’s a lot of money.
And the unions knew it. And so the unions – almost all the big ones – aggressively lobbied the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve the merger. The record is long and ornate; the unions really, really wanted this deal.
Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO., sounded off when the news of the proposed merger broke: “Yesterday’s announcement of the acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T hasimportant, positive implications for consumers in the U.S. and Germany, forthe U.S. telecom workforce and for our country’s economic future. The acquisition ensures AT&T a strong telecom workforce well-positioned tocompete globally, while offering tens of thousands of T-Mobile USA employees the opportunity to make their jobs good jobs by benefitting from the pro-worker policies of AT&T, one of the only unionized U.S. wireless companies”
The AFL-CIO’s house blog was similarly effusive: ““The announcement over the weekend that AT&T is buying T-Mobile USA could benefit both consumers and employees”
And Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America. also spoke up: “For more than a decade, the United States has continued to drop behind nearly every other developed economy on broadband speed and build out. The Federal Communications Commission sounded the alarm more than a year ago with its broadband report, and President Obama in his State of th eUnion address called for increased efforts to bring the U.S. back to global parity as a key stimulus for economic development. Today’s announcement of the acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T is avictory for broadband proponents in both the U.S. and Germany. For the U.S.,it means that T-Mobile customers will get quick access to the AT&T network,soon to include LTE or data speeds of at least 10 megabits down stream.More important, as part of the deal, AT&T is committing to build out to nearly every part of the U.S. within six years” Bear in mind that Cohen and the CWA are not cheerleaders for big telecoms; they’ve fought a long, losing battle with Sprint over their practice of contracting out labor, rather than hiring expensive union employees and taking on their pension burden.
Last month, Philip Qualy, legislative director of the Minnesota United Transportation Union’s mailed the FCC’s Julius Genachowski to support the merger; you can read the letter here. Ditto Shar Knutson and Steve Hunter, from the MN AFL-CIO. And Julie Schnell, President of the SEIU’s Minnesota State Council; while the SEIU is reliably in bed with the Democrats and the DFL, they know money when they see it.
And Edward Reynoso, political director of the Teamsters’ “Democratic Republican Independent Voter Education” (DRIVE) project, who estimated the long-term upside for the unions, and the private economy, at up to 96,000 jobs. Not to mention Mona Meyer, president of the Minnesota Communications Workers of America, the union that’d be most affected by the merger.
There is no doubt that labor has close ties with Democrats in Congress. A list of eighty members of the House of Representatives – including Betty McCollum, of Minnesota’s Fourth Congressional District, signed a letter to the FCC also supporting the merger.
So it’s a big deal for the unions.
And as such, it should be a big deal for Democrat – right?
Last Wednesday, Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl recommended that the FCC spike the almost-$40-billion deal:
”I have concluded that this acquisition, if permitted to proceed, would likely cause substantial harm to competition and consumers, would be contrary to antitrust law and not in the public interest, and therefore should be blocked by your agencies,” Kohl said [last] Wednesday.
The unions seemed flabbergasted. Candice Johnson, communications director for the Communications Workers of America, wrote to tell the FCC that no, they were not amused:
So what does this mean for Al Franken, for you private sector union people out there,and for the country?