Deutsche Telekom’s annual Corporate Social Responsibility Report, released earlier this month, hides the truth about the company’s aggressive anti-union campaign in its T-Mobile USA operations, undermining its claim to leadership in the field of social responsibility. 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 to 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”. The company has launched a series of legal tactics to delay and frustrate election proceedings at the US National Labour Relations Board, rather than simply accept the worker’s wish for union representation as is allowed under US law. Groups of workers, most recently in Connecticut and New York, have also been made to attend management-organised “captive audience” meetings in recent days to convince them to change their decision to join the union. Efforts by the CWA to engage with T-Mobile management to ease the anti-union campaign have to date not succeeded, nor have discussions with the German parent company.
“I was with the T-Mobile USA workers on Long Island when they signed their union cards,” said UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings. “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.” Union representation in the US is established only when a majority of workers in a specific workplace indicate that they want it. Companies can then voluntarily recognise the union, or insist on a secret ballot supervised by the National Labour Relations Board. The NLRB has recently announced plans to streamline procedures, to avoid precisely the kind of tactics being used by T-Mobile.