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Sprint CEO warns of more job losses in KC area if merger with T-Mobile isn’t approved

The Federal Communications Commission is weighing a proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile.
The Federal Communications Commission is weighing a proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile.

Sprint’s CEO warned in a Tuesday letter to FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks that the company will be forced to cut jobs, including in the Kansas City region, if a proposed merger with T-Mobile is not approved.

The letter from Sprint CEO Michel Combes was prompted by comments that Starks, a Johnson County native, made to The Kansas City Star about the role jobs will play in his consideration of any merger, including the proposed $26 billion union of the telecommunication giants.

“Without the merger, the trajectory for Sprint will worsen and Sprint’s prospects will be limited. Sprint will be forced to further reduce its operating expenses, which means more job reductions in Kansas City and throughout the company, and our future as a standalone company will be in jeopardy,” Combes said in the letter to Starks.

Starks joined the five-member FCC in January, filling one of its two Democratic seats. Combes’ letter was sent to the rest of the commission, including Ajit Pai, the Kansas Republican who serves as chairman.

Starks said in a statement that Combes’ letter is consistent with what the CEO told him at their meeting last month. He added that he will consider it in his review of the proposed transaction, “along with the rest of the record.”

Starks told The Star last month that he believes in a robust public interest standard for evaluating mergers.

“I don’t think it is improper for me to consider the impact on jobs, jobs gained and jobs lost,” he said.

Combes’ letter comes the same week that independent research firm MoffettNathanson Research downgraded the likelihood of the merger from 50 percent to 33 percent.

Sprint employs roughly 6,000 people at its Overland Park campus. The company has experienced layoffs in recent years, including the loss of 500 jobs announced in 2018..

Both Sprint and T-Mobile have repeatedly claimed that the proposed merger will result in an overall increase in jobs.

“It’s clear that New T-Mobile will be a job creator and add jobs in the Kansas City area,” Combes states in the letter, contending the combined company will add 11,000 new jobs by 2024.

The merger has been opposed by the Communications Workers of America, a union that represents telecom workers but not those at Sprint, on the grounds that it could lead to thousands of layoffs.

Debbie Goldman, CWA’s research and telecommunications policy director, said in a statement that Combes’ letter does not address the concerns that have been raised by the union and lawmakers.

“The job promises that T-Mobile and Sprint have been making are filled with loopholes and would not come close to offsetting the 30,000 jobs that would be lost due to the merger,” Goldman said.

Combes’ letter attacks CWA and asserts that Sprint employees support the merger.

“In the past year, I have seen many of our Sprint employees go from being a bit skeptical of the merger to understanding and even embracing their role as ambassadors for the many benefits it will bring,” Combes said.

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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