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