Feb 20, 2014
CWA customer service members met with colleagues from around the globe at this year's CWA customer service professionals' conference. In panels and one-on-one conversations, workers talked about improving wages, working conditions, respect on the job and professionalism.
The conference was jointly sponsored by CWA and UNI Global Union, the labor federation representing 20 million workers worldwide. Customer service workers from countries including New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Romania, Philippines, Brazil and South Africa attended and spoke with their U.S. colleagues about building alliances to help build power for all customer service workers.
CWA President Larry Cohen, speaking at the customer service professionals' conference in Orlando, says call center workers around the globe are supporting each other and raising standards.
CWA President Larry Cohen said that the work of call center workers was precarious, whether in the U.S., or Europe or Asia. "For all call center workers, from finance or telecoms and from global north or global south, all work is precarious. Whether it's outsourced to another nation or outsourced across the street, every call center worker in every sector faces this. How do we stand up and fight together? How do we say to multinationals – you will not pit us against each other? By standing together and raising our standards together," he said.
UNI Deputy General Secretary Christy Hoffman called for a new strategy to ensure dignity at work for all call center workers. "The workers in many cases share the same employers or share the same problems. They are underpaid but skilled and well educated and their working conditions do not reflect that," she said.
Josh Coleman, a top earner at the T-Mobile US call center in Wichita, Kans., who was fired because of his support for union representation, also addressed participants. The National Labor Relations Board announced that the U.S. government would prosecute T-Mobile US for violating federal labor law.
U.S. Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) talked about the disaster of "fast track" and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for workers, the environment and consumers. Grayson has characterized TPP "as a punch in the face to the middle class of America, but I'm not allowed to tell you why," in condemning the secrecy and one-sided negotiations of the trade deal.
CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins noted that "for the past few years, we've been working with UNI Global Union on issues for customer service workers, from dealing with job stress to increasing wages to pressing for greater professional recognition of the work that customer service reps and others do every day. This joint conference is taking that work to the next step, and that's exactly what we need to do in today's global economy."
Locals committed to actions that will get underway when participants return home. Activists signed up for these campaigns: Trans-Pacific Partnership, T-Mobile US organizing and American Airlines organizing.
These CWA Customer Service Committee members helped put the conference together: Sandy Kmetyk, Local 13500; Rosie Dunbar, 3902; Vickey Hoots, 3640; Mary Elizabeth Lewis, 4004; Rick Smathers, 4527; Monica Eason, 6016; Valerie Packer and Chris Pagnac, 7250; Lynn Johnson, 9333; Rick Hunt, 13500, and Kim Leiser, 31026.