AT&T, T-Mobile merger could have big impact on Wash. jobs

Aug 31, 2011

The justice department is suing to block AT&T’s acquisition of Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA, arguing it’s a bad deal for consumers. But here in Washington, an even greater threat is the impact the merger could have on local jobs and the economy.

Soon after the announcement by the justice department there was a collective sigh of relief from some Washington residents. T-Mobile employs about 3,300 people in Bellevue. With unemployment over 9 percent, government and business leaders are looking to hang on to every last job they can.

In a statement released today, Congressman Jay Inslee said:

“In these difficult economic times, the last thing Washingtonians need are more layoffs, increases in their wireless bills and fewer choices for wireless service. The Department of Justice clearly shares some of my concerns," Inslee said. "I’ve asked AT&T to answer some pertinent questions about the merger, and thus far I have not been satisfied with their responses.”

Since the early '80s Washington has been a critical hub for the wireless industry, starting with pioneer Craig McCaw. But over the decades a number of wireless companies have moved out of state taking their jobs with them.

Other mergers, job losses

In 2004, when Cingular acquired AT&T wireless – based in Redmond – they cut 1,200 positions, and the new AT&T is based in Dallas.  A year later, Western Wireless, another Bellevue company, was acquired by Alltell – now Verizon. Within two years, almost 90 percent of those jobs had been eliminated.

That’s why there’s such concern over the current proposed merger.  

So far, AT&T has not said what would happen to the jobs in Bellevue. They have, however, made it clear they will appeal the justice department’s decision. Which means the two sides can eventually settle and the merger may still go through.