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AT&T plans to close 95 retail stores nationwide in April and May, including three in Minnesota—Apple Valley, Shakopee, and West St. Paul. These stores join the 250 stores AT&T closed last year. The local union representing AT&T employees plans a protest at the West St. Paul store at noon on Wednesday, March 12.
The Communication Workers Local 7250 alleges that AT&T plans to reopen some stores as authorized retailers. That approach involves a third-party company that uses AT&T branding and can hire lower-paid, non-union employees with fewer benefits.
“Replacing secure, living-wage, union jobs with underpaid, under-resourced, non-union jobs is anti-worker and anti-community,” said West St. Paul City Council Member Robyn Gulley. “And it’s union-busting—even if they change the store front. AT&T should be ashamed.”
“We are proud to be one of the largest union-represented companies and the only unionized wireless company,” said an AT&T spokesperson.
The spokesperson added that all union employees were offered another job either in a nearby retail store or as a work-at-home call center representative, as stipulated in the union contract. They could also apply for other open roles in the company.
But the union argues that shifting to customer service means missing out on commissions and earning less. Plus, the company “has closed so many stores, we’re running out of places to put people,” Larry Thompson, an AT&T retail sales consultant at the St. Paul store and union official, told Workday Minnesota.
AT&T reportedly has 5,000 stores nationwide, and just over 2,000 are corporate stores while the majority are authorized retailers.
“As we have previously announced, we are transforming our business,” the AT&T spokesperson said. “These changes will reduce the number of retail stores to better align with consumer preference.”
This is evidence of the broader shift among wireless retailers, including closing stores and shifting away from corporate-owned stores to authorized retailers—a move that started before the pandemic but has been accelerated thanks to the pandemic.
The West St. Paul store will reopen as an authorized retailer.
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