President Trump has repeatedly worked to equate 5G with American jobs, and managed to squeeze that message into a White House press conference Wednesday with Finland President Sauli Niinistö.
"We're also glad that the Finnish company, Nokia -- it's a great company -- a global leader in 5G technology, is developing its cutting-edge products right here in the United States at Bell Labs in New Jersey," Trump said.
Nokia acquired Bell Labs as part of its $16 billion acquisition of Alcatel in 2016. Along with Nokia's Espoo, Finland, headquarters, Bell Labs is the hub for Nokia's 5G Future X research and development efforts. The company's prototype 5G network in Murray Hill, NJ, allows carriers and other customers to test 5G in both real and simulated environments.
However, the Communication Workers of America union wasted no time in issuing a statement in response to Trump's comments, with the goal of gaining leverage in any negotiations for its members. The union stated that Nokia is "currently trying to eliminate all of its CWA-represented U.S. telecommunications installers by offshoring good jobs and terminating its highly-skilled U.S. workforce."
The CWA explained that some installers work in remote testing and integration centers, and that many of these jobs have already been moved from the United States to Romania and India.
"Trump's comments about Nokia could not be more wrong about what Nokia is doing to U.S. jobs. Trump should listen to the CWA members who've been in bargaining for over a year with Nokia who are urging the company to bargain a fair deal that allows the company to invest in our communities, keep its long-standing installer workforce, and maintain quality of service for customers, and he should tell Nokia to do the right thing for U.S. workers," said CWA telecommunications and technologies VP Lisa Bolton, in a statement.
The CWA also represents employees at AT&T, Verizon and other operators, and routinely holds rallies and other events in order to gain leverage in its negotiations for its members.
A Nokia representative said that "Nokia employs more than 14,000 people in North America and we treat all employees fairly and with respect, including those represented by the CWA. We remain committed to bargaining in good faith with the CWA until an agreement is reached."
As of 2017 about 12,200 of Nokia's employees were in the US. Although Nokia has since laid off a few hundred people, the company has not announced massive US layoffs in recent months. In fact, Nokia's cost cutting efforts appear to have resulted in more European layoffs than US layoffs.
Questions about Huawei
During Wednesday's press conference, Finnish President Niinistö was asked about Huawei and whether the Chinese company's network gear could pose a security threat to countries that allow their service providers to use it. Niinistö reminded reporters that the entire European Union is still examining the relationship between 5G and security, and said the risk assessment should be completed in two weeks. Niinistö also said that European countries have a different relationship with Huawei than the U.S. has.
"In Europe, the situation is maybe a bit different from that here, because the main company you mentioned is inside Europe -- partly, at least," Niinistö said.
Huawei remains the world's largest wireless network equipment supplier, ahead of Sweden's Ericsson and Finland's Nokia.
— Martha DeGrasse, special to Light Reading. Follow her @mardegrasse.