In "right-to-work" state, T-Mobile workers struggle for right to work

CWA speak out

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Employees at a T-Mobile call center here say they endure a constant battle against the stress that comes from unrealistic performance standards, job insecurity and humiliation. At a "Speak Out" event earlier this year, T-Mobile's Charleston employees provided testimony to the working conditions at the call center.

Of the more than 300 workers at this call center, 75 percent are African American, and many are women and single parents struggling to support their families.  

In addition to dealing with customer inquiries, the workers are required to meet a sales quota of $29 dollars per productive hour while ensuring that calls last under six minutes. This means that while assisting a disgruntled customer with resolving a problem, the employee must maintain quota by making a sale and adding charges - and all within six minutes. Not only does this aggravate an already upset customer, it also generates considerable frustration and stress for the employee. Angry customers mean poor customer feedback, and customer feedback determines employees' salary and bonus rewards. Sales targets take precedence over customer concerns at T-Mobile, and not meeting quota could result in punishment or termination. Workers must find a way to balance satisfying the required quota and preserving customer satisfaction, while facing humiliation from their supervisors in an effort to encourage productivity. This results in an unbearably stressful working environment for the employees.  

Job insecurity consumes T-Mobile call center employees in Charleston. Besides the fear of their jobs being offshored to foreign countries, they say they worry constantly about job loss and termination for minor mistakes. Management treats call center workers as if they are completely expendable. According to a report released by the Communications Workers of America, a company message mistakenly sent to all employees at the call center indicated management's desire to terminate a certain number of workers each month.  

Employees faced with such a difficult working environment would seem to deserve to mobilize and demand better for themselves. Unfortunately, neither T-Mobile or South Carolina's governor, Nikki Haley, are shy about their opposition to unions and collective bargaining.     

T-Mobile has always been openly committed to operating union-free in the U.S. and urges its managers to discourage union organizing. Call center trainees are advised to stay away from unions and are shown anti-union PowerPoint presentations during new employee orientation. Adams, Nash, Haskell & Sheridan, a firm dedicated to "union avoidance," wrote T-Mobile's 2003 training manual, which instructs management on how to thwart union organizing attempts. The firm offers strategies on ways to avoid unionization and prevent interference by third parties with employers' productivity and profits. T-Mobile also hires attorneys and human resources staff skilled in dodging organizing attempts.  

After the "Speak Out" event where workers testified about the conditions they face, management held meetings to discourage union involvement and portrayed unions as threatening, stating that union membership meant signing away your rights.  

Gov. Haley expresses pride in the fact that South Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the country.  She is a self-appointed "union-buster" and strong supporter of tough "right-to-work" laws, which cripple union organization and reduce wages. In fact, according to information from a news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Carolina has experienced a decrease in wages since Haley took office in 2011. The evidence indicates she cares only for the protection and success of big businesses and nothing for the well-being of the state's working people.  

At the Speak Out, the call center employees explained that they love their work and find satisfaction in helping customers solve their problems, but the stress at T-Mobile makes it difficult for them to do their job. They simply requested the peace of mind to not have to worry about job loss due to offshoring or termination for slight mistakes, and to be able to collectively organize so they can communicate their needs and demands for better treatment to their employer.  

It often seems as if the odds are against call center workers in Charleston. They are up against the widespread fear that any action to improve their work environment would create a backlash from both a fiercely anti-union company, and a governor who threatens that unions "are not needed, not wanted and not welcome in the State of South Carolina."

Despite these obstacles, Charleston call center workers continue to fight for their right to work without fear.  They have the support of local elected officials, community members and students. And they are backed by a global campaign that includes the Communication Workers of America, ver.di, Germany's largest union, and other unions around the world. All these people will stand by the workers in their continuing efforts to organize and put an end to T-Mobile's behavior.   

Video: T-Mobile workers Joyce Bellamy and Roland Ellis discuss their campaign for respect on the job with Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, and Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America.

Photo: At the T-Mobile Speak-Out in Charleston, S.C., T-Mobile workers Joyce Bellamy, left, and Roland Ellis, second from right, speak with Sharan Burrow, head of the International Trade Union Confederation, and CWA President Larry Cohen, February 2013. CWA photo.



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  • If you want to know the truth,about so called right to work laws,I will be happy to tell you.
    Living in a right to work state I have seen and experienced their impact first hand.

    Myth; you can still join a union,but under right to work you don't have to pay dues. That is insidious union busting. Show me a union orginazation anywhere,that will allow someone to become a member,and receive all union benefits and protections,without having to pay for them with dues.

    Myth. Right to work laws protect workers rights.
    Wrong. In a right to work state,workers have no rights.
    Most right to work laws come with an "at will' employment rider ,which means your boss can fire you for wearing the wrong color neck tie,or because his wife is having a bad hair day,or for no reason at all.

    Here are some of the employee experiences I know of.
    A man who worked for a locally owned independent shoe store chain was fired,for talking to a union organizer.
    A woman who ws a hostess at a high end eating establishment ,for three years was denied a raise,and fired for her audacity,just for being forced to beg for one.
    Her former boss then spent the next two years,blackballing her with false statements,keeping her out of work. It did not stop until she filed a lawsuit.

    A man I know personally,had eight years on his job. He never took time off he was not entitled to,never came in late,never left early,and was the employers most productive worker,showing statistics that his productivity increased every year. He was denied a raise every time he asked,because his boss would never offer a raise just as a reward for his good work and loyalty.
    The last time he asked,he was fired,and his former boss,then lied to the Department of Economic Security,about the reason he was fired,in order to deny him unemployment,saying he was unproductive,lazy,and unreliable.
    Normally,under right to work,my friend would have had no recourse,but I encouraged him to appeal,which he did.
    At the appeals hearing,one of the investigators saw something a bit off.
    He asked the former employer one question."If Mr. "Smith" was such a horrible employee,why did you keep him on staff for eight years?" "Seems like poor business practice to me." My friend won his appeal,but that is very rare.
    These are just a few examples of the horrors of right to work laws,and they are the rule,not the exceptions.

    Right to work,is nothing more than government sponsored and condoned employee abuse.

    Posted by Jake Eagleshield, 12/13/2014 10:00am (9 months ago)

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