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AT&T plans to lay off 101 technicians in San Diego County as part of larger statewide job cuts, raising the ire of the union representing many of the workers.

The Communications Workers of America is pointing to AT&T's pledge to create 7,000 jobs nationwide while advocating for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill in 2017, which lowered corporate tax rates, among other things.

"They fought hard to get the tax bill passed," said Thomas Runnion, vice president of the CWA District 9 in California. "We were told this was going to create 7,000 jobs within AT&T, and it has not."

Earlier this month, AT&T announced it would lay off 368 CWA member technicians in the state, with the bulk of the layoffs concentrated in San Diego and Los Angeles.

The workers are mostly field technicians who install or repair pay TV and slower speed Internet services at homes and businesses.

AT&T said the layoffs stem from changes in demand for certain services. For example, more people are streaming video over high speed Internet connections rather than subscribing to a pay TV service.

"We are encouraging affected employees to look for other jobs with the company, including in other areas of California and the country where we're hiring for these positions," said Scott Huscher, an AT&T spokesman. "We have some openings in the Bay Area, and we're offering a cash award of $5,000 to techs who relocate."

The company continues to hire in areas where there is consumer demand, said Huscher, adding 2,000 jobs in California last year. It currently has about 100 openings in the state.

There is no difference in pay for workers who relocate to the Bay Area for one of the 50 or so available positions, said Runnion, and the cost of living there is higher than in San Diego.

"You are going to stay at the same rate of pay, and you have to wonder am I moving there and then in six months, am I going to see the same thing happen?" he said. "There are no guarantees."

Runnion said workers being laid off could be retrained for other in-the-field technician jobs that are now handled by contractors.

"There is opportunity, but the company chooses, and has the right, not to offer those up to these folks," said Runnion. "From our perspective, that is not the way to be a good corporate citizen."

Nationally, the Communications Workers of America contends that AT&T received $21 billion from the tax cuts but has eliminated 23,300 jobs companywide since the bill passed in late 2017. The union is calling for a congressional investigation into how AT&T is using the benefits from its tax cut.

"They had talked about creating 7,000 new jobs on the tax break deal," said Runnion. "Where is that?"

Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com

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