There isn't necessarily anything wrong with job banks. Corporations as large as AT&T with hordes of non-management union workers need a mechanism to move people from non-performing and/or redundant operations into those that are either still growing or short on staff. The job banks, or job "pools" as they are called at AT&T are how this flexibility is managed. If a nation-wide surplus is announced across multiple departments, those affected can elect to take a severance or enter the pool. Once the pool has been "filled", the process to move folks out of it can begin. Yes, there are no guarantees for them and you can only stay in the pool for so long before having to go without a severance offer but all that is negotiated with the union.
What the general public hates to hear regarding job banks is when people get full pay while in them even though they aren't doing anything. That's what I've read about them in General Motor's case but I don't know if that is truely accurate. In telecom, and I could be wrong about this, those in a job bank/pool only get a fraction of their regular pay. I assume all that is determined on previous wage scale levels and seniority etc.
I don't see what the big stink is, at least it provides a mechanism of hope for those seeking to stay employed with their current employer and some time to apply for other jobs without having to waste time learning the ropes of the US unemployment system and getting COBRA at the same time.
Many union and management folks that don't take a severance if one is offered will probably be given some time to apply for jobs in growing areas such as U-Verse & Wireless.
The problem seems to be a focus on the short term instead of mid/long term. If I made every decision in my life based on the next quarter or year, my own personal outlook would be in quite lousy shape as well. GM did exactly this by failing to realize that big big big big vehicles and offering the same car with three or four different name tags may not be the diverse product line they think it is. GM thought they could tell people what they wanted to buy, when the people just decided to shop elsewhere instead. They seem to be catering to the specialty groups (i.e. Hummer, Cadillac) while their core product line generally goes to shit.