About 400 Jobless After AT&T Call Center Closes in Atwater

Published 08/26 2014 10:03PM

Updated 08/26 2014 10:08PM

Almost 400 people are out of a job in Merced County after the AT&T call center located in Atwater shut its doors Monday.

Only 23 people accepted offers to relocate to Southern California or out of state, says Pamela Waddle, the union's vice president who had been working with the company for 17 years.
Tuesday, the parking lots at the call center were empty.

In late June, AT&T told 397 people that August 25 would be their last day.

"Yesterday was a very, very sad day because you're almost losing your family that you've had for years," Waddle says.

She says the layoffs are a big blow to families who may now be struggling to make ends meet.

"I know someone in this building, she just bought a house two months ago and had been looking for a home for a year. A month and a half later they make the announcement we're losing our jobs," Waddle says. 

Hundreds of others are also in that position. They'll now be competing for jobs with those already unemployed in Merced County.

Last month, Gracian's Mexican Restaurant next door to the call center closed its doors to relocate, anticipating the loss of its customer base.

"These are people. These are people with lives. These are people with families. These are people that are members of my community," says Joan Faul, mayor of Atwater. 

Faul says she and the city council wrote a formal letter of protest to the company in July asking them to reconsider or give people more time.

She says the closure is catastrophic for the city of about 28,000 people.

"This rates right up there with the [Castle Air Force] base closing. This is our major employer," Faul says. 

The Castle Air Force Base that closed in 1996 took with it thousands of jobs and had a negative economic impact on the community. 

Worknet of Merced County has been assisting those who are now out of a job by helping them with their resumes, letting them know of job openings, and offering skills training.

Jackie Waother-Parnell, operations officer of Merced County Workforce Investment, says it's a full-time job just to look for a job. 

"The longer you put off coming in, the harder it is to then turn around and take those steps. So I recommend that they come in here right away," Waother-Parnell says. 

Those in Atwater were also concerned about pending layoffs at the Mi Pueblo Market, where the company planned to lay off 91 people starting Sunday; but as of Tuesday those lay offs have been put on hold, according to Frances Garcia, a public relations representative with Mi Pueblo Market.   

Garcia says the company is looking for other options to avoid the layoffs. 

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