Call center workers from T-Mobile USA held a "Speak Out" in Charleston, S.C., to expose the extreme differences in working conditions and respect for workers between the U.S. and Germany. Check out these videos:Trying to Get Peace of Mind and Do the Charleston, and Stay Strong.
The forum followed a week-long visit by Berlin-based call center workers, members of ver.di, Germany's largest union, representing 2 million workers. The visit was a continuation of the support campaign by ver.di and the global union movement to expose the double standard at T-Mobile and help U.S. workers gain a union voice.
The panel included elected officials, community leaders, students and others active in workers' rights and worker justice. Rep. James Clyburn, a Democratic House leader,expressed his support for the T-Mobile workers. "Fight. Don't give up this fight," he said.
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, representing 174 million workers around the globe, said Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Oberman and the German Government must listen to the voice of workers, and they have a responsibility to fix the abuses in their company.
"There are companies respected in Europe, behaving badly right here in the U.S. The 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. 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," she said.
CWA President Larry Cohen said, "Workers doing the same job for the same company deserve to be treated the same. Why does 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?"
Brutal local management methods in the U.S. have included having workers being forced to wear a dunce cap to humiliate them when performance measures slipped.
Workers spoke about the culture of fear and pressure every day to keep responses to customer calls under 360 seconds, even though they often have to resolve complex issues for customers. Felicia Smalls, a call-center worker in Charleston told the panel, "I want to keep my job, and make it better."
Tomas Lenki, a ver.di union member from Berlin, said, "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. We feel betrayed and lied to by the board of Deutsche Telekom. We tell you 2 million ver.di members have your back."
The global campaign — 'We expect better' — in 2013 will include more worker exchanges between Germany and the U.S. and political pressure on Deutsche Telekom's largest shareholder, the Germany Government, in an important election year.