The United States Telecom Association, the lobbying arm for a majority of the
Baby Bells, is planning to lay off about 20 percent of its personnel under a
restructuring plan adopted last week.
In a two-page release Dec. 13, the USTA made general references to 'dramatic
restructuring' and 'streamlining,' but it gave no indication that it was
intending to cut 13 of its 67 positions.
Under the plan, USTA president Walter McCormick has offered buyouts to all
USTA workers. Each employee has until Dec. 27 to decide whether to accept a
buyout. Buyout terms vary depending on seniority.
'We are doing the voluntary separation first and we'll see how that goes.
Everybody got a separation package that they can consider,' vice president of
strategic communications Tom Amontree said.
When asked what would happen if dozens of USTA workers accept buyouts,
Amontree said, 'We'll review and determine what areas we need to hire people and
who would be best for that job.'
The USTA represents three Baby Bells: Verizon Communications, SBC
Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp.
On July 31, the association expelled the fourth Baby Bell, Qwest
Communications International Inc., after Qwest fell behind on the payment of its
dues. Annual dues for a company the size of Qwest are $797,000.
Amontree said the buyouts were part of a broad restructuring of USTA
operations -- including the doubling of lobbyists from three to six -- and not
related to the financial hit associated with Qwest's departure.
The USTA has already moved to trim its staff by electing to outsource its
computer operations. Five computer workers were let go and security guards were
brought into the trade group's headquarters to ensure security.
'We had security people here. We believe that we have to take steps for our
employees to ensure their safety,' Amontree said. 'When you have a situation
where you're announcing restructuring, you have to take all precautions.'
McCormick, the former CEO of American Trucking Associations, became the
USTA's president July 1 succeeding interim president Gary Lytle, who joined
lobbying firm Tongour Simpson Holsclaw Green LLC.