German and US unions demand that T-Mobile respect workers’ rights

The Communication Workers of America (CWA) presented a petition signed by 62,000 people to the Deutsche Telekom (DT) board of directors demanding that the German telecommunications company allow workers at its US subsidiary T-Mobile to decide freely whether they want to join a union.

CWA was joined in presenting the petition by its German sister union ver. di, which represents 2 million German workers including those who work for DT in Germany.

T-Mobile has conducted an aggressive anti-union campaign, and DT, which recognizes its workers’ union in Germany and other European countries, has done nothing to stop it.

T-Mobile has recently run afoul of the US Federal Trade Commission, which is suing T-Mobile for cheating its customers.

CWA officials were in Germany to attend a meeting of DT workers from the US and Europe. CWA and ver. di, which hosted the gathering, have been working together to support T-Mobile Workers United (TU), an organization of current and former T-Mobile workers working together to improve their jobs.

The focus of the meeting in Germany was, according to the CWA website, “the global economy, trade, and the behavior of multi-national company’s with T-Mobile US the main case.”

At the meeting, ver. di workplace leaders said that the union would soon be launching its own petition campaign demanding that the German Parliament hold hearings on DT’s reluctance to require its US subsidiary to follow DT’s own guidelines for protecting workers’ rights to form unions and bargain collectively.

Unrealistic and ever-changing sales and performance goals, lack of job security, and a management style that relies on intimidation and public humiliation led workers more than ten years ago to begin talking with CWA about forming a union.

During that time, T Mobile has fired and disciplined workers for their union activity.

The unjust firings and disciplinary actions caused T-Mobile workers to file a number of unfair labor practices complaints.

In May, the company agreed to pay Josh Coleman for lost wages resulting from his firing and agreed in writing not to use an earlier disciplinary action against Ellen Brackeen in the future.

Both were TU members and union supporters. Coleman complained to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that he was fired for supporting the union and Brackeen complained that she was disciplined for the same reason.

Before the settlement was reached, the NLRB agreed with Coleman and Brackeen and had filed charges against T-Mobile.

There are still a number of unfair labor practices complaints pending against the company, and the NLRB recently moved to consolidate the complaints.

According to CWA, T-Mobile’s “anti-worker (actions) are directed by top management at headquarters in Bellevue, Washington.”

At the very top of T-Mobile’s management is CEO John Legere, who in addition to fostering the company’s anti-union culture, has run an aggressive campaign to re-brand T-Mobile as the underdog wireless company that’s more customer friendly than its two main competitors, AT&T and Verizon.

But Legare’s re-branding campaign has taken a number of hits lately.

Legere in a recent public speech given in Seattle said that AT&T and Verizon were “raping” their customers and that “they fucking hate (their customers).”

Legere’s casual use of the word “rape” struck some T-Mobile workers as a trivialization of violence against women and they publicly complained.

In a blog posting, five T-Mobile employees wrote that “Legere went too far using repugnant, sexually violent language for cheap laughs. Trivializing the brutality of sexual assault is not an edgy corporate communications strategy. For many women, this is not funny. It’s traumatizing.”

Legere and T-Mobile has also come under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FTC recently sued T-Mobile for cheating its customers out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the FTC suit alleges that T-Mobile billed customers for unwanted third-party services “such as ringtones, wallpaper, and text messages providing celebrity gossip and horoscopes” and kept between 30 to 40 percent of the charges.

According to Time, the billing for unwanted services, known as cramming, was disguised on customer bills as “usage fees” so that customers couldn’t easily tell what they were being charged for.

T-Mobile says that it has stopped billing customers for third-party services and that the suit is baseless.

The FCC has also opened an investigation into charges that T-Mobile was cramming customers.

Workers at T-Mobile told CWA that T-Mobile was cheating its customers, and in 2013 CWA alerted DT.

DT took no action, but CWA is hoping that the FTC suit, the FCC investigation, and the petitions for worker rights will spur DT to stop ignoring the problems at T-Mobile and take action to end the abuses.


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