T-Mobile Workers United (TU) solidified their position as a permanent force for worker rights at the US’ third largest wireless carrier when on July 25 it opened its first field office in Wichita, Kansas.
“T-Mobile workers in Wichita are ready for a seat at the table, and the opening of this local office is proof of the momentum of our campaign to come together as workers and collectively bargain with our employer,” said Angela Melvin, a customer service representative at T-Mobile’s call center in Wichita. “We have come such a long way in building our union at T-Mobile, and I know there is much work to be done. I cannot wait to see what the building of this union has in store for us!”
TU has been fighting since 2008 to improve workers lives at call centers and retail stores owned by T-Mobile and T-Mobile’s affiliate MetroPCS.
As a result of TU’s work, T-Mobile workers now have paid parental leave, a scheduling policy that doesn’t punish people for being sick, and the right to speak freely on the job..
In April, TU took another step toward becoming a more effective organization by electing chief stewards at seven T-Mobile call centers.
The stewards will listen to workers as they talk about the changes that they would like to see at the company, lead the workers’ meetings with management, train others on labor laws and workplace rights, and truly represent the workers’ voice at T-Mobile.
The ultimate goal of TU is to win a collective bargaining agreement that ensures that these victories can’t be taken away and that more improvements can be achieved.
Melvin discovered what it looks like to work in a call center where workers belong to a union when she took a recent trip to Germany to address the annual stockholders meeting of Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s owner.
Deutsche Telekom’s workers belong to a union called ver. di.
“What I took away is that the Germans are a great role model on how to treat employees with dignity and respect,” said Melvin. “What I loved most about their call centers is how the environment was a smaller work space and not so hectic with noise and other distractions and that their metrics just don’t randomly change from month to month. It is also amazing to learn that they have unlimited paid sick days and they are an extremely productive company. I also love their scheduling model, which provides predictable schedules for a whole year that take workers’ personal situations into consideration and is not based on performance.”
Ver. di has taken a special interest in the union organizing drive undertaken by TU and together with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which has been supporting TU, has established the TU Council, a cross Atlantic organization of T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom workers that fosters cooperation between the two companies’ workers.
As a gesture of solidarity with their counterparts in the US Lothar Schröder, a leader of ver.di, attended TU’s office opening in Wichita.
“Ver.di and CWA have been working in solidarity and friendship together for many years,” said Schröder, who is also the vice chairman of the Deutsche Telekom board of directors. “Forming TU in 2008, we made an important and unique step for the global labor movement in furthering our international union cooperation. Now with the opening of the TU field office in Wichita, we continue on this path. Ver.di and I are committed to do what it takes so that T-Mobile workers can freely decide whether they want to join a union to have a voice in the workplace.”