Protesting AT&T Workers Question Company’s Commitment to Racial Equality

Posted on July 21st, 2020 | By Edward Ongweso Jr



On Monday, Memphis AT&T workers and members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) held protests in solidarity with the national Strike for Black Lives. Workers at the company’s Memphis call center, warehouse, and retail stores hoped to call attention to the contradiction between AT&T’s recent statements supporting Black Lives Matter and what they say is a failure to protect its predominantly non-white Memphis workforce from Covid-19.

Randall La Plante, CWA Local 3806 Executive Board Member, told Motherboard of a recent incident at the Memphis call center, staffed “overwhelmingly” by women of color, where a class of new hires were exposed to coronavirus during an in-person training. “We had asked, when they had the first two in the class test positive, for them to move to online learning for their training. The company refused to do it. When 10—half the class—eventually tested positive, the company finally decided to move into virtual training. But that was only after they had a week to expose 200 to 300 people.”

In a statement to Motherboard, AT&T said: “Everything we do meets or exceeds the local guidelines and has been a result of lots of consultation with the medical community to minimize risk at our locations. Any suggestion otherwise is wrong.”

AT&T CEO has called the pandemic a “time of war” where everyone needs to “step up,” but La Plante says the largely Black warehouse workforce has been told it’s not the company’s responsibility to sanitize common-use surfaces—workers should do it themselves. Workers have also “begged and begged” for call centers to be cleaned, with pleas either going unanswered or only being addressed after well over a dozen new cases were reported in one week.

“Talk is cheap,” La Plante said. “When they got a massive tax break, AT&T said they were going to create 7,000 middle-class jobs—they’ve laid off 30,000 people since then. So it’s not what they’re saying, it’s what they’re doing that really shows their real stance. If the company really believes that Black Lives Matter, let’s clean those call centers, let’s try to keep employees safe from [coronavirus].”

AT&T workers are also still protesting a 2017 incident and investigation that cleared Memphis warehouse supervisor Bruce Allman of wrongdoing after workers claimed he “made a noose and tossed it” at a black manager. Nine workers claimed they were fired for making complaints and filed a lawsuit shortly after. Allman still works for AT&T.

“We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” AT&T said. “This occured nearly three years ago, we thoroughly investigated it, and absolutely no evidence of any discrimination or threat was found. The facts don’t support these allegations.”

Wayde Boswell, CWA Local 3806 President, hopes that AT&T will be pressured by protesting workers to improve safety conditions during the pandemic. “We just want to keep our folks safe. We can work in conjunction instead of having to do this. Let’s work together, get things done, and keep our folks safe,” he said.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.


‘Fight the virus’: Ad Council tackles antisocial behaviour against Asian community

By Imogen Watson


To draw attention to the antisocial and racist treatment of members of the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community since the outbreak of Covid-19, the Ad Council has unveiled ‘Fight the Virus, Fight the Bias’ as part of its ‘Love Has No Labels’ campaign.

Donald Trump unashamedly referring to Covid-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’ did nothing but encourage 2,000 reported incidences of discrimination and hate speech against the API community, as the current pandemic continues to see an increase in bigotry and racism.

According to a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 31% of Asian adults have reported being victim to racial slurs or jokes since the outbreak, and 58% of Asian Americans say this behaviour has increased in frequency.

‘Fight the Virus, Fight the Bias’ intends to combat the harmful stereotypes, with a film that encapsulates the fear felt by those at the receiving hand of anti-API discrimination. Through a series of personal recounts, it tells the sad tale of abuse against members of API community who feel physically blamed for the virus.

Pulling off their face-masks, each narrative details how they are ‘not a virus’ but an essential worker, working tirelessly to help the world cope with the ongoing pandemic. ‘Fight the virus, fight the bias’ they say in unison as the spot concludes. Alongside the PSA, the campaign includes an AR filter, available on the Love Has No Labels Instagram page in the effects tab, to encourage users to show solidarity.

“At a time when hateful rhetoric and racially-fueled discrimination are plaguing the API community, it’s critical that we all play a role in dispelling the racist misconceptions and actions pervading our country,” said Ad Council President and CEO Lisa Sherman.

“Amid this pandemic and the stresses associated, nobody should have to also endure the added layer of fear that comes from this surge in racial violence and harassment. We hope this film will inspire Americans to rethink their biases and help put an end to the wave of racism facing the API community.”

The campaign will be promoted across the channels of Love Has No Labels’ partners, including Bank of America, Google, Johnson & Johnson, and Walmart.

Finding real purpose amid the global pandemic, the Ad Council has been hard at work on its ongoing national Covid-19 response efforts. Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Month, the Ad Council approached the issue of youth suicide with a star-studded music video, in a bid to help those who might be struggling during lockdown.



It partners with Comedy Central and ViacomCBS’ Entertainment & Youth Brands, to address the effects of isolation on mental health. It launched an online hub that offered actionable resources to help people ‘Stay Calm’, ‘Stay Connected’, and ‘Stay Active while they ‘Stay Home.’

Alongside that, it created a campaign to thank those on the front lines of the Covid-19pandemic that featured an unreleased new song from Alicia Keys, titled ‘Good Job.’ At the beginning of April, it joined forces with Google, the ANA, and other advertising, media, and marketing trade associations, on an industry-wide movement that begged the American public to ‘#StayHome. Save Lives’.

The movement built on the success of #AloneTogether – a social distancing campaign created by MTV and the Entertainment & Youth Brands of ViacomCBS.


National Organization on Disability Releases Results of 2020 Disability Employment Tracker

NEW YORK (July 16, 2020) – Nearly one million Americans with disabilities have lost their jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the New Hampshire University Institute on Disability. Results of NOD’s 2020 Disability Employment Tracker – a survey of 200 businesses and organizations that collectively employ 8.7 million people in the U.S. – found that their road back to employment may be particularly difficult, with too many companies still lacking a sincere commitment to creating disability-inclusive cultures.

The 2020 Tracker found many employers still do not have adequate accommodations processes in place and fewer HR and hiring managers are receiving needed disability training to effectively on-board new employees. And internship and mentoring programs for people with disabilities have remained mostly flat since the Tracker started monitoring such activities seven years ago.

Since the pandemic began in March, 1 in 5 workers with disabilities lost their employment, compared with 1 in 7 in the general population according to the U.S. Labor Bureau of Statistics.

“People with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus and its economic consequences,” said NOD President Carol Glazer.  “Sadly, we know there will be a rolling back of the gains we have seen since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law 30 years ago this month, particularly as it deals with employment. Corporate America must do more to answer the challenge made by President George H.W. Bush when he signed the ADA into law, when he said employers hold the key to unlocking the full potential of the ADA. This latest research confirms that lock is still securely bolted shut.”

Average percentage of employees identifying as having a disability: 4.09%; Companies that have reached the Dept. of Labor target of 7% disability representation: 8%.

The most important disability inclusion driver—getting and keeping talent—has remained flat. In 2020, companies reported a disability rate of 4.09% among their workforce, rising just slightly from 4.03% in 2019 and 3.9% in 2018. Just 6.3% of new hires reported a disability in 2020, a slight increase to the 5.7% reported in 2019.

Year-over-year, the Tracker does show an uptick in companies whose senior leaders discuss and publicly promote disability initiatives, which reach 80% in 2020, as compared to 76% in 2019. Federal contractors are leading the way in adopting disability employment best practices, with 85% tracking disability by job group, compared to a non-contractor rate of 73%.

“Progress against the ultimate measure — the number of employees working with disabilities comfortable with self-identification — has remained flat,” said Felicia Nurmsen, Managing Director of Employer Services at NOD. “As we look forward another 30 years, employers will be vital to fulfilling the ADA’s promise of equal opportunity for Americans with disabilities by building a truly inclusive workplace.”

The Tracker results did find that NOD’s Corporate Leadership Council Members continue to perform higher than other companies completing the Tracker.  The best performing companies are adopting key practices to yield higher disability rates, including having a plan for improving disability inclusion practice; ensuring recruiters, managers and supervisors are well-trained in the accommodations process; and providing easy access to accommodations at the post-offer/pre-employment stage and throughout the employees’ tenure.

View all the 2020 Disability Employment Tracker benchmarks  |  Take the Disability Employment Tracker