AT&T employees push to save jobs near Atwater

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AT&T employees are making a final push to save more than 400 jobs in the North Valley. (KFSN)

AT&T employees are making a final push to save more than 400 jobs in the North Valley.

AT&T is planning to close its call center in the Atwater area by August 26. During Monday's rally, Action News heard stories about how individuals, families, and the local economy will suffer if the company doesn't have a change of heart.

"I loved my job. I love helping people. I go out of my way to help people," said Travis Waller, an AT&T tech support specialist. "I just hit my 10 years on Saturday, so it's kind of bad that it was just hit my 10 years and now I'm going to lose my job in two weeks."

Dozens of workers and their supporters held a rally near the entrance to the Castle Commerce Center Monday morning. They're pleading with AT&T to keep their call center open -- or at least give them more time. The closure would impact 397 employees plus about 40 other positions, including cleaning and security staff.

"It looks like the decision is done, but basically we don't want to go down without a fight," said Waller.

Several employees and their family members have also written personal letters to the company. Local union president Lynn Johnson says one of them came from an 8-year-old boy whose parents both work at the call center.

"He talks about how we can't buy new clothes for school and we have to be careful about the groceries we buy. So when you read those kinds of letters it's just heart-wrenching," said Johnson.

AT&T has been the single largest employer at Castle since 1997. The company announced plans to close the call center in June and offered transfers to four other facilities. But three of them are out of state, and Johnson says only 28 people have accepted.

"We have several members that cannot go and follow their work out of state. They take care of aging parents, their children are in high school. They can't move at this point," said Johnson.

The city of Atwater has written a formal letter of protest calling the closure catastrophic for the local economy.

"Just as when the base closed in 1996, the same type of thing will happen. It will affect the schools, our attendance, our economic development. It's just a real devastating thing for the city of Atwater," said Atwater Mayor Joan Faul.

Action News reached out to AT&T for comment. AT&T spokesman Alex Carey released the following statement:

To better serve our customers and increase efficiency, we are consolidating work currently done at our call center at 1910 and 1920 Customer Care Way in Atwater into other facilities, primarily the one in Cerritos, California. We're offering all affected bargained employees the opportunity to follow their work to other locations, and a relocation allowance. Those who elect not to follow their work and are unable to find another AT&T job will receive severance.

Regardless if our employees decide to follow their work, they remain a top priority. We have collaborated with the California Employment Development Department to host 11 workshops at our facilities to give our employees information about job-related services offered by the county Department of Workforce Investment and the EDD. Our employees were given information about training, updating resumes and interviewing skills, as well as labor market information that shows which industries and companies are hiring in the region. In addition, we are providing an opportunity for affected employees to interact on-site with Covered California and representatives of our Mobility retail business who are seeking job applicants.

This will not affect headcount across the country -- we will be hiring in other locations to replace employees who choose not to follow their work.

We remain committed to California, and continue to hire here. We hired nearly 4,200 employees across the state in 2013 and over 1,900 more during the first six months of this year. We currently have more than 650 job openings in the state.

This was a business decision that was not easy to make, but we will not be reversing our decision to close the call center.

Related Topics:
employmentjobseconomyAT&Tmerced countyAtwater
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