Local Business Notes: Springfield woman laid off from AT&T featured in Bernie Sanders video

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A Springfield woman who lost her job when AT&T closed its Springfield call center in 2014 was featured prominently in a video tweeted Thursday by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.

The video was taken from a roundtable event in Bloomington, Indiana, in mid-October featuring Sanders and workers who lost their jobs due to outsourcing by federal contractors.

Springfield resident Dena Warren told Sanders that she was laid off from AT&T in 2014 after more than two decades with the company when their Springfield call center was relocated.

“I have nothing and I’m going to continue to have nothing,” Warren said. “And this is going to continue to happen to everybody because that’s all AT&T thinks about. They get contracts, they train people overseas and then they lay off the trainers.”

Speaking with me late Friday afternoon, Warren said she was asked to attend the Sanders event to speak on behalf of herself and other workers. She’s been involved with Good Jobs Nation, the group that put on the event, which was started in 2013 to hold politicians of all stripes accountable to American workers. And as a former officer in the Communication Workers of America Local 4202, it’s a role she’s used to.

“And I said yes, I would (come to the event),” Warren said. “I (wanted) to tell him how it felt that day when I got my world blown up. I (wanted) to tell him how I felt, how others that day felt and how I thought it should be.”

The State Journal-Register reported at the time that AT&T closed the Springfield call center after deciding to consolidate work done there into other facilities in Illinois, which a company spokesman confirmed again on Friday.

“As we said in 2014, to better serve our customers and increase efficiency, we consolidated work from our call center in Springfield to other facilities,” said AT&T spokesman Jim Kimberly. “We offered affected bargained Springfield employees the opportunity to follow their work to a center in Rantoul, Ill., and a relocation allowance.”

Kimberly added the move did not reduce the company’s overall headcount in Illinois and Springfield employees unable to find another job with the company were offered severance packages.

In the end, 36 employees accepted the transfer to Rantoul, another dozen found jobs at other AT&T facilities. More than 180 were laid off.

Warren said the union tried to work with the company to keep the facility open, but the company was not interested.

While the company gave workers the opportunity to relocate, it was not a viable option for Warren and many of her coworkers.

“I couldn’t leave. I had a home. I had a dog,” Warren said Friday. “I could not leave my home and my family and move over there, have a lease, rent my home out. And they only gave you a month to move. And then my department was surplussed within a month (in Rantoul).”

Warren said she was subsequently forced to take a minimum wage job when the facility closed.

“I was 60 years old,” she said at the hearing. “Nobody wants to hire a 60-year-old lady who’s got disabilities.”

Though Warren’s experience was front and center in the video, it was overlaid with more contemporary criticism of AT&T, such as the company laying off thousands of workers after receiving a substantial tax cut from the 2017 GOP tax reform law.

“Sometimes companies go under, they go under,” Sanders said. “But when you have companies that are making record breaking profits and just crap all over their workers and toss people out on the street. That’s not what the American people want.”

Kimberly disputed the video’s characterization of AT&T, however, saying that there was never a promise around tax reform and jobs.

“What was said is that AT&T plans to invest an additional $1 billion in the U.S. this year as a result of tax reform, and that research shows that every $1 billion in capital invested in the telecom industry creates about 7,000 good-paying jobs for American workers, across the broader economy,” Kimberly said. “And that remains true.”

Warren eventually found steady employment with the state of Illinois, but she makes less than she did when she was working for AT&T.

Warren said politicians “need to have their feet held to the fire” on issues like the outsourcing of American jobs. She gave Sanders credit for being “very aware” of what’s needed. And she hopes that, despite not voting for President Donald Trump in 2016, he keeps his promise to prevent jobs from being shipped overseas.

“We would still be there if they had still had the center open,” Warren said. “That was our life. That was where our friends were. We helped build that company.”

The former call center, 5020 Ash Grove Road, was acquired by Bunn-O-Matic Corp. in October 2014 and now houses the company’s global headquarters.

***

HERE TODAY, a St. Louis-based discount retailer, will delay the opening of its Springfield location until spring 2019, the company said.

The company, which specializes in selling unique, eclectic products that are relevant while still appealing to value-centric customers, had initially targeted opening the Chatham Square Shopping Center store in mid-September or October.

When it was clear they would not meet that timetable, company officials decided to delay until next year given how November and December are “crazy months” to try and open a store.

“We feel it is best for us to focus on our current stores during the holiday season and then shift our focus to Springfield in the new year, targeting a spring opening,” the company said.

The Springfield store will be the chain’s 11th location, its second in Illinois and its first foray outside Missouri and Metro East.

***

Those visiting the campus of the UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS SPRINGFIELD will have to go to a slightly different location to buy their Prairie Stars swag.

Earlier this week, the university’s bookstore reopened in the lower level of the Public Affairs Center in the space formerly occupied by the PAC Food Emporium. The bookstore was previously located in Founders Hall.

According to UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp, FOLLETT, the company that operates UIS’s bookstore (and more than 1,000 campus bookstores around the country), requested the move when the space opened up.

The space became available when university’s dining services relocated to the UIS Student Union, which opened in January. Schnapp said the newly vacated space in Founders Hall will be converted to office space for the university’s Division of Student Affairs.

The university and Follett recently signed a new contract which will see the company continue to operate the campus bookstore through at least June 2028.

***

LOCAL FIRST SPRINGFIELD, a group that promotes the value of buying local, has launched its first “Springfield Buy Local Month.”

Throughout November, the group will post videos featuring local businesses on their social media platforms. The festivities will will all lead up to Small Business Saturday, which is Nov. 24.

“When you buy local you not only support the business owner, their employees, and suppliers but also you help to strengthen the local economy and build a better community,” said Desiree Logsdon, president of Local First Springfield. “Springfield Buy Local Month will further highlight the importance of supporting local businesses in the run-up to and during the holidays.”

***

Filed at Springfield Building and Zoning last week:

LORENZINI PROPERTIES, LLC, 2937 West White Oaks Drive, Suite B; future tenant remodel

BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF ILLINOIS, 3405 Liberty Drive; roof replacement and exterior improvements

SPRINGFIELD BEER COMPANY, 3788 Wabash Ave.; plumbing

AMERICAN FAMILY INSURANCE, 900 Clock Tower Drive; sign

PASTA HOUSE, 2599 Wabash Ave.; sign

Ribbon cuttings through The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce:

ROUTE 66 MOTORHEAD BAR & GRILL, 600 Toronto Road; Nov. 6

WALMART SUPERCENTER, 2760 N. Dirksen Parkway; Nov. 9 (celebrating store renovation)

00-Pol RT,16-Econ,26-Delivered

Region: Springfield,Feeds,Business,City: Springfield,Region: Central

via Business News – The State Journal-Register https://ift.tt/2lPEgK4

November 4, 2018 at 06:26AM

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