Much hay has been made over the merger between AT&T and DirecTV, but one aspect that should not go un- or under-acknowledged is the fact that the merger will vastly expand union membership in Ohio and elsewhere.
As the largest full-time unionized employer in the country, at 41,000 strong Communication Workers of America, AT&T has long respected the rights of its employees to organize under union representation.
AT&T is now nearing completion of its $48.5 billion deal to acquire DirecTV. By folding DirecTV into the mix, 16,000 more employees will have the ability to make their own choice about joining a union.
Mitchell Schnurman, a columnist for The Dallas Morning News, wondered in September: Can Unions and Big Business be friends? He pointed to the situation at AT&T and the DirecTV merger.
“Many believe that unions are a drag on business because they drive up costs, resist change and limit flexibility. In right-to-work states, where unions are a smaller factor, economic growth has been stronger.
But AT&T and the CWA offer a counterpoint. Their long-term relationship benefits employees and the company, and one expert said it gives AT&T an edge in the marketplace.
‘AT&T’s business strategy is built on generating higher revenue instead of competing on the lowest-cost commodity,’ said Rosemary Batt, a professor at the ILR School at Cornell University.
That’s possible, she said, because AT&T has a stable, skilled workforce that can deliver higher-quality service. In most nonunion shops, she said, employee turnover is three to five times as high, especially in call centers.
Why is turnover lower among union workers? They get higher pay and benefits, and they have a formal mechanism to solve problems on the job, Batt said.
That requires more give and take from leaders – and more management skill – but it improves employee buy-in. Over the long haul, that can be worth the higher labor costs, she said.”
Of course, the merger also has benefits for customers and underserved populations.
By way of example, through this merger, millions of consumers in underserved and rural areas around the country will have access to new high-speed broadband options for the first time.
AT&T is also committing to offer increased broadband access and greater internet speeds for locations previously without other viewing options. In fact, high-speed broadband will cover a whopping 70 million customer locations.
That could have an important impact on jobs, connectivity and day-to-day life for populations that are frequently left in the dark. This will also mean that popular services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon will be available to millions of people who currently aren’t able to enjoy them.
From a competition standpoint, the unification of AT&T and DirectTV will lower costs and create more competition for other companies that are essentially acting as monopolies in certain markets. By combining AT&T’s internet and DirecTV’s television services into one package, the combined company will become an important competitor in locations where there is currently only one bundled service provider. This increased competition will create new and improved benefits for consumers across the board.
Organized labor and consumers both have a lot to gain from the joining of these two companies, and this is important to recognize at a time in America when labor and consumers so often get the short end of the stick.