Emmelle Israel, AFL-CIO Media Outreach fellow, sends us this.
Last week, Deutsche Telekom techs, customer service reps and retail employees from Germany toured the United States to visit with their T-Mobile USA counterparts in Washington, D.C., Nashville, Tenn., and Frisco, Texas, and learn more about the double standard practices the German company adopts when operating abroad.
T-Mobile workers from this country and Deutsche Telekom workers from Germany have been engaged for many years in a global campaign to create a real voice at work for employees at T-Mobile call centers and retail outlets. Exchanges of personal stories and visits of worker delegations between the two countries have led to an even deeper sense of international solidarity.
As he waited to board the plane to D.C., Stephan from Düsseldorf recalled the first time he met T-Mobile workers who had come to Germany:
They came to Germany to fight for their rights even though they were afraid that because of taking holidays they wouldn’t achieve monthly sales goals. This would be unimaginable at Telekom in Germany. The meetings in Düsseldorf were an important information exchange for both sides but it also was the beginning of some friendships between union activists across the ocean.
Once in the United States, the delegation met with T-Mobile workers who are currently struggling to form a union in their workplace. After the meeting, Conny, a Deutsche Telekom retail employee, reflected:
It makes me really angry that employees are intimidated and harassed when they want to join a union. Companies like T-Mobile seem to use every possible tactic to prevent unionization.
I think our colleagues are quite brave and have a lot of courage as they fight for their rights despite their own personal risks. They are all employed on an at-will basis, which means that they can be fired from one day to another. So they really worry about their future.
In Nashville, Tenn. and Frisco, Texas, the delegation members held public events with T-Mobile workers and participated in leafleting at T-Mobile workplaces to inform others about the stark contrasts between what un-unionized T-Mobile workers endure in the U.S. compared to what unionized Deutsche Telekom workers have in Germany.
One of those T-Mobile workers, a call center employee who has been with the company for more than five years, talked about the high turnover rate at the call center. He said more than 10 co-workers were kicked out of his department in the past month. They were replaced by new and cheaper workers. That`s why he wants to get a voice for himself and his co-workers.
The T-Mobile employee asked that workers receive the same respect that T-Mobile customers receive.
For the German workers who came on the trip, their experiences have helped personalize the struggles of T-Mobile workers who live and work an ocean away. Their conviction to stand together with T-Mobile workers in this country is stronger and more deeply felt.
Before they headed back to D.C., Werner Schönau, Dieter Badel and Helmut Angerer summed up the week they spent with various T-Mobile employees:
We want to say that we are deeply impressed by the stories people told us on our trip and by the concrete experience we had. In particular, the personal reports from employees of T-Mobile US about their working conditions and the avoidance tactics of the union had us moved deeply. We really hope that this delegation is at least a small contribution for improving the working conditions and workers rights [for T-Mobile workers]
…We definitely won’t give up in the future. We will use every opportunity to talk with our German co-workers about the experience we had during this week. We will encourage them to ask questions, also tough questions, to our management about what’s going on at T-Mobile in the USA.