When Deutsche Telekom first bought VoiceStream Wireless in 2001, the Communications Workers of America lauded the purchase because of Deutsche Telekom's track record as employer and corporate citizen in Germany. CWA hoped that Deutsche Telekom would import into the U.S. its German conception of social partnership. Instead, its American subsidiary, T-Mobile USA, hired union-busting consultants, intimidated its employees, and has ensured that workers fear even talking about a union.
T-Mobile USA's anti-union campaign has been brutal: management distributes memos and manuals that instruct managers on how to stop organizing efforts and orders its security guards to harass workers interested in organizing. Job advertisements for human resource managerial positions stress union avoidance. Upper level management refuses to even talk to counterparts at CWA. The National Labor Relations Board has warned T-Mobile USA for its behavior. To this day, workers at T-Mobile USA have neither collective representation nor a voice at the workplace to speak up against unfair treatment. Upper management may have employment contracts; workers do not.
CWA and ver.di (the large services union in Germany) have joined together to help T-Mobile USA workers achieve justice and fair treatment by forming a joint union for all Deutsche Telekom workers in the U.S. – TU-Workers Union (TU). The comprehensive international effort led by TU includes:
- Worker mobilization
- Solidarity among DT workers worldwide
- Outreach to civil society, communities, church leaders, and the media
- Education of political figures – at both national and sub-national levels
- Alerts to investors about the risk created with the double standard
CWA and ver.di have tried to reach out to Deutsche Telekom management time and again, but have always received the same negative response. Indeed, T-Mobile USA management has never agreed to meet with the union. This reflects poorly not just on Deutsche Telekom AG but also on the Federal Republic of Germany itself, as the German state is by far the largest shareholder of Deutsche Telekom.
UNI Global Union – an international federation to which both ver.di and CWA belong – has sought to engage Deutsche Telekom in a global framework agreement that would set rules for global behavior. While such an agreement was close to fruition under former Deutsche Telekom management, current management has refused to sign any document that impedes its campaign of union avoidance. TU believes that companies should neither help nor hinder workers seeking to exercise their right to collective representation. TU does not ask Deutsche Telekom to help with its organizing efforts, but the company should refrain from its union avoidance tactics, cease any overt or subtle anti-union behavior, and allow TU to introduce itself to T-Mobile USA workers. If Deutsche Telekom wants to maintain its image as a socially responsible company that is a role model and pioneer in good corporate citizenship, it needs to reconsider the behavior of its American subsidiary.