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Global Union Movement Backs T-Mobile USA Workers’ Struggle

T-Mobile, the telecom company that last year closed seven call centers in the United States and shipped more than 3,300 jobs overseas, is running its remaining U.S. call center operations with abusive and intimidating tactics, T-Mobile workers at the company’s Charleston, S.C., call center told a workers' rights hearing (see video, below) last week.

Workers at a number of T-Mobile (owned by Deutsche Telekom) call centers are mobilizing to win a voice at work with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and have been met with a fierce anti-union campaign. 


That’s a stark contrast to the relationship between Deutsche Telekom and its German workforce, says Sharan Burrow, general secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Burrow says the German telecommunications giant “must listen to the voice of workers, and they have a responsibility to fix the abuses in their company.”

T-Mobile USA is one company that uses fear and intimidation to scare workers away from union representation….We’re saying to T-Mobile, we expect better of you. Workers’ rights don’t stop at the German border, they’re for all people.

In Germany, the company negotiates with the German union ver.di for workplace conditions, with union representation a key part of the company culture, including representation on the company board. Says CWA President Larry Cohen:

Workers doing the same job for the same company deserve to be treated the same. Why do one set of workers in the U.S. face threats and intimidation for wanting to be represented by a union, while others in Germany get a seat at the management table?

When T-Mobile’s practices came to light in 2011, Deutsche Telekom said it would investigate the complaints. But, said Tomas Lenki, a ver.di union member from Deutsche Telekom in Berlin who was part of a delegation of German union members on a weeklong fact-finding visit to Charleston:

We have gathered numerous stories of attacks on workers’ rights and passed them on to our board of Human Resources. We’ve been told they are isolated cases and the behavior has stopped. What we have seen in first-hand conversations in Charleston this week is in stark contrast to what Deutsche Telekom has told us.


He told T-Mobile workers: 

They may tell you we are not unionized, but we tell you 2 million ver.di members have your back.

Burrow said the ver.di members will publicize their findings because:

German people need to know what is happening to workers in the USA. They would be appalled to think the company they are so proud of, that bears the German name, could be treating workers to fear and intimidation.

Several other global union officials and local activists also spoke. Read more from CWA and more from Burrow on The Huffington Post.

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Deutsche Telekom
Sharan Burrow

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