More than 500 workers from ver.di, the German telecommunications workers union, today descended on Deutsche Telekom’s global annual shareholders’ meeting in Cologne to demand the company ensure its American employees at T-Mobile USA the same rights enjoyed by its German workforce.
The workers formed a human chain around the meeting venue and released black balloons as a sign of mourning for their U.S. co-workers’ rights.
In Germany, Deutsche Telecom recognizes the union and has a collective bargaining agreement with workers. But at its American subsidiary, T-Mobile USA, management harasses workers who try to join the union, and has implemented a company-wide strategy of refusing to recognize the workers’ choice of a union and collective bargaining rights.
Communications Workers America (CWA) President Larry Cohen, said:
T-Mobile workers must be allowed to choose a union, and the harassment must stop. We thank German workers for standing up for our rights.
“Deutsche Telekom should change its behaviour in the United States as soon as possible. Its global standing is at stake and it should use this chance to improve its reputation,” said ver.di’s Ado Wilhelm.
Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union, which brings together unions in the telecoms sector, said “responsible employers don’t act this way.”
We expect better from one of the world’s leading telecom companies with solid industrial relations in its home country.
On March 20, Deutsche Telekom agreed to sell T-Mobile USA to AT&T, which respects workers’ rights to union representation and collective bargaining. The government review of the merger could take a year.
Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said T-Mobile workers should not have to wait a year to gain their rights.
This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on May 12, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: James Parks’ first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He also has been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.