Feb 19, 2013
This past weekend, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, met with T-Mobile USA workers in Charleston, S.C. Along with labor, community religious and student leaders, she listen to their stories about workplace and their struggle for a union voice.
She writes in The Huffington Post:
Today in South Carolina the protest lines are not found on the docks or on campus. They are found outside call centers with hundreds of workers housed in faceless suburban business parks.
South Carolina is a 'right to work' state -- a misnomer of a phrase, as the laws limits union representation of workers. It does does not guarantee workers a job or fair wages and conditions.
T-Mobile USA is one company that uses fear and intimidation to scare workers away from union representation.
At its call center in Charleston workers exposed brutal local management methods. In one T-Mobile center staff were forced to wear a dunce cap when performance measures slipped to humiliate them.
Deutsche Telekom, a German multi-national telecommunications company, owns T-Mobile, a company respected in Germany but behaving badly in America.
In an exchange organized by their unions, German workers from Deutsche Telekom spent last week in Charleston meeting their call center co-workers from across the Atlantic. They were shocked.
Deutsche Telekom is held in high regard in Germany, workers and their unions have a seat on management boards. Collective bargaining is seen as a positive part of the culture of productive companies.
Tomas Lenki, a Berlin based call center worker told me he felt betrayed and lied to from the board of Deutsche Telekom.
Over the past year, numerous stories of attacks on workers rights at T-Mobile have been to the board of Human Resources. Workers in Germany were told they were isolated cases and the behavior had stopped.
What Tomas saw in Charleston this week in first hand conversations is in stark contrast to what Deutsche Telekom told him about how management treats workers.
Global workforces now mean that international companies like Germany's Deutsche Telekom or America's Wal-Mart along with thousand's of others can't hide. Workers and their unions will expose unfair treatment of people.
It's time to show authority that workers won't let this happen.
Let's all dance the Charleston.