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Congressmen Step Up to Spearhead the T-Mobile Union-Busting Backlash

The raging debate over the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reached new decibels last weekend during a House Education and Workforce hearing on the board’s proposed rules changes that would streamline the unionization process, disallowing “unscrupulous employers to control the election process through delay and intimidation.”

The NLRB chatter has been well-covered by the media since the three Democrat and two Republican board took on mega-corporation Boeing over its decision to move a plant as retaliation for a worker strike. But, a new corporate target entered the fray during last week’s hearings: T-Mobile

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) read into the record the worker testimony from William Reitz, a T-Mobile USA technician who, along with other techs from Long Island, filed for union election in May. In response, T-Mobile has engaged in frivolous claims and delay tactics at the NLRB. T-Mobile has used the time it has gained by filing charges at the NLRB to harass and intimidate the workers–supposed to provide ”the facts” to the employees.

In the statement, Reitz says T-Mobile’s behavior “is an example of the desperate need for change.”

They have used delay tactics to give the managers time to coordinate attacks on the union we are trying to join, threaten our jobs and our benefits, and even try to gerrymander our bargaining unit for the election. After several months of this verbal and emotional assault, I still stand firm in my commitment to gaining a voice at work. What I am asking for is a fair chance to vote.

After Bishop read the statement, he strongly criticized T-Mobile management.

Long Island T-Mobile workers recently signed union cards, verified by Philip Jennings, UNI Global Union General Secretary. The union produced this video about the organizational milestone:

The day after Rep. Bishop put T-Mobile’s anti-union practices into the Congressional record, another Congressman became vocal about the telecom company’s dubious ways and the need for ultimate protection of the freedom to unionize among T-Mobile’s ranks. From News-8 in Hamden, CT:

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is supporting T-Mobile technicians who want to unionize.

The Senator met with several of the 15 Connecticut T-Mobile technicians and with representatives of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and said he believes that there is “clear majority support” among the techs for representation by the T-Mobile workers’ division of the CWA.

Blumenthal’s letter included a clear call to action:

“The right of workers to unionize is guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act and is critical to a healthy workforce. Employees who wish to collectively bargain through a union should be able to do so without fear of discrimination or reprisal. I expect that T-Mobile management will cease all intimidation tactics and allow these 15 technicians and all Connecticut T-Mobile employees to have the uninhibited opportunity to vote on union representation.”

The support of these two Congressmen comes on the heels of Deutsche Telekom’s annual Corporate Social Responsibility Report. CWA claims the report “hides the truth about the company’s aggressive anti-union campaign in its T-Mobile USA operations”:

The report mentions Deutsche Telekom’s commitment to ILO, OECD and UN Global Compact standards, but excludes any reference to the problems faced by its huge US workforce which the company is trying to deny union membership.

“Germany has been a powerful voice in favour of ILO standards at the G20 and elsewhere, but here we have a company, in which the German government is the dominant shareholder, actively and deliberately violating these very rights in its overseas operations,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

T-Mobile USA management, supported by the German parent company, have engaged specialised anti-union lawyers to block employee’s attempts to get representation from the Communication Workers of America. The website of one of the firms openly advertises “union avoidance” as one of its specialties, listing T-Mobile as a “client it represents on a regular basis”.

CWA adds that T-Mobile is using “legal maneuvers to delay a union-recognition ballot, to give its union-busting experts time to frighten workers into staying out of the union.”

The increased static for T-Mobile comes as AT&T’s bid to acquire the German-owned company pushes further and further above the fold. A successful endeavor would erase anti-union concerns in one fell swoop, officials say, because AT&T is a pro-union company with over 40,000 unionized wireless employees and another 100,000+ on the wireline side.

Weekly, a representative of labor publicly endorses the proposed deal. The AFL-CIO, Teamsters, Painters (IUPAT), Operating Engineers (IUOE), Mine Workers (UMWA), and ever-powerful Service Employees International (SEIU) have all endorsed the acquisition attempt as have several state labor federations and local union leaders.


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