Despite a decline of $9.4 billion in total income between 2019 and 2020, the Dallas-based tele-communications company reported $171 billion in operating revenues for 2020. The company was named by Forbes as the biggest of its kind in the world in 2019 and has remained at the top of its industry since then, even amid a number of sales and reorganizations.
AT&T’s failed attempt to buy T-Mobile USA Inc. in 2011, for example, cost the company $39 billion and another $3 billion in breakup fees, then the largest ever. Additionally, its acquisition of DirecTV in 2015 for $48.5 billion — along with its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, which it renamed WarnerMedia in 2018 — generated more than $170 billion in debt for the company. Facing tough losses for the company, former Chief Operating Officer John Stankey stepped in as its new chief executive in April 2020, replacing Randall Stephenson, who had been in the role for 13 years.
The company subsequently sold a number of its holdings, including DirecTV, which was valued at $16.3 million in February 2021 when AT&T spun it off into a new company. Three months later, AT&T announced a $43 billion deal to spin WarnerMedia off and combine it with another holding, Discovery Inc., to create a new media company.
AT&T operates in several major cities across the United States with the majority of its work force at its Dallas headquarters and at hubs in Atlanta and El Segundo.
The company started mandating Covid-19 vaccinations for its management employees in August 2021. It expanded that requirement at the end of September to include workers who are members of the Communications Workers of America union. As one of the most heavily unionized wireless carriers, AT&T’s mandate will affect more than 150,000 employees represented by the CWA out of the company’s total 230,000 employees across the country.
Adrian Quintanilla, vice president and general manager of AT&T Southern California, answered questions about the company’s Covid-19 safety measures, while an AT&T spokesperson from the company’s Dallas headquarters provided a statement to address the way the company is accommodating employee needs and attracting new hires.
What has your L.A. team’s contribution been to AT&T’s successes this year?
Adrian Quintanilla: The well-being of our clients and colleagues is of the utmost importance, and as Southern California continues to reopen, we have focused on ensuring a safe and responsible environment for our customers and employees by complying with local mandates, as well as our company-required safety practices. And as we know, working and learning from home during the pandemic has created an even-greater need for connectivity. Our Best Deals for Everyone (smartphone) campaign is resonating with new and existing customers — and we hope to continue serving the community with the best products and services.
How is your company handling Covid safety protocols?
AT&T: Since the global pandemic began, our employees’ health and safety has been a top priority. Given the recent surge in the delta variant, we are taking additional steps to help ensure the safety of our employees and customers.
To help make our workplace safer, we’ve implemented the CDC’s most recent guidance on face coverings for our employees, regardless of vaccination status, who come in to work locations in areas with high or substantial transmission of Covid-19. Also, we’re requiring most management employees be fully vaccinated before entering a work location. And we extended our vaccine requirement to CWA-represented employees earlier this week in our continued effort to help protect employees and customers.
Have you changed your employee benefits in the past year to accommodate employees’ changing needs or to compete more effectively?
AT&T: In the last year, we have introduced the following initiatives to support our employees, including a hybrid model featuring office, flex and virtual options while encouraging flexibility within teams: We implemented a new PTO program where all employees get at least 23 days of vacation and additional holidays (including Martin Luther King Jr.) Day, Presidents’ Day (and the) day after Thanksgiving.
We enhanced our paid parental leave for new moms and dads from eight weeks to 12 weeks’ paid time off. We also introduced a new paid caregiver leave that provides up to 15 days of paid time off to our employees, so they can care for loved ones when they are ill. Employees may use this for any member of their family — children, parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. It’s designed so employees can use it how they need it — a few hours, a few days, a few weeks.
Additionally, AT&T’s reproductive benefits now include fertility medications and treatments, a concierge service to direct employees to facilities and services, adoption reimbursement, surrogacy services, coverage for a doula during pregnancy and childbirth, and paid parental leave.
What diversity or inclusivity initiatives has or is the company implementing in policy or practice?
AT&T: We have a long history of supporting diversity and inclusivity initiatives inside and outside our walls. (Regarding) hiring, our CEO, John Stankey, has made specific commitments on how we’ll work to advance diversity and inclusion, intended to create more transparency within AT&T, so we can drive accountability, inspire action and ensure we’re living up to our value to stand for equality. We believe that transparency drives accountability and enhances long-term change.
We continue to build a diverse talent pipeline by recruiting from historically Black colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions across the country, and supporting growth within the company.
We also have leadership development programs that target diverse employees, including Executive Women’s Leadership Experience, Lift and Connect, Women of Color Initiative, Executive Black Leadership Experience and Executive LatinX Leadership Experience.
Among our external priorities, we’re focused on ensuring the most vulnerable students have access to the internet through AT&T Connected Learning, part of our companywide three-year, $2 billion (initiative) to bridge the digital divide through efforts that promote broadband affordability, accessibility and safe adoption.
A recent study indicates that one in three Black, Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native families do not have high-speed home internet. We can support them through various programs, including our AT&T Connected Learning Centers, which will help reach students from historically underserved communities, including people and students of color, giving them the access, tools and mentoring they need to help them succeed.
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