Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile USA, boasts in its annual report on corporate responsibility that it is committed to the global labor standards established by the International Labor Organization (ILO), a branch of the United Nations. Except, it appears, when it comes to T-Mobile workers in the United States.
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) President Sharan Burrow says Deutsche Telekom—of which the German government is the dominant shareholder—is
actively and deliberately violating these very rights in its overseas operations.
T-Mobile workers throughout the U.S. are fighting to join a union—the Communications Workers of America (CWA)— but the company has hired union-busting attorneys and is conducting a classic anti-union campaign with mandatory captive audience meetings, delaying tactics and other intimidation measures, says UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings. UNI represents workers in telecoms unions around the world.
If these workers were in Germany, they would have become members of the union automatically but T-Mobile USA management has launched a brutal intimidation campaign to keep the union out of the workplace and to scare the workers out of fighting for their rights.
UNI, the ITUC and other global labor groups are mobilizing their support for T-Mobile workers by urging Deutsche Telekom to rein-in T-Mobile’s anti-worker tactics and pressing the German government to exert its influence.
In a video released last week (see above), Jennings makes a direct appeal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He notes that just recently, Merkel was the main speaker at the 100th Convention of ILO where she spoke out strongly for workers’ rights, collective bargaining and the right to organize. Says Jennings:
I’m simply addressing this appeal to you to recognize the rights of these ordinary Americans to have a union.
According to Burrow:
Deutsche Telekom has chosen to support outright violation of international freedom of association standards by its US subsidiary. We expect better from such a significant global player.
If the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile is approved, the T-Mobile’s 20,000 workers will have the right to join a union without intimidation because of a neutrality agreement between with AT&T and CWA.
This article originally appeared on the AFL-CIO blog on July 7, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He has also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold his blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent.