Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Der Spiegel: Employees at T-Mobile Face 'Brutal Psychological Terror'

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Der Spiegel exposes T-Mobile's shocking work conditions.

The German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel is out with an expose on the appalling working conditions at T-Mobile USA, detailing the "brutal psychological terror" faced by workers.

The article came out of an interview earlier this month with CWA President Larry Cohen and Lothar Schrφder, executive board member of ver.di, Germany's largest union representing telecommunications workers. It has since been picked up internationally and featured in a number of tech publications. The story is now being covered in the UK by Reuters, in the US by the Chicago Tribune, in Austria by Der Standard, in Switzerland by NZZ.

Der Spiegel, one of Europe's largest publications with a weekly circulation of more than 1 million, reports that to attract a buyer for the troubled company, T-Mobile's German parent company Deutsche Telekom has instituted extreme performance measures on more than 30,000 American call center workers:

Whoever is not able to reach these high expectations is faced with disciplinary measures, harassment and threatened with termination or other professional consequences, workers explain in the interviews. If all that doesn't help, workers are even being shamed in public. For example, call center employees in Chattanooga had to wear a dunce cap for hours to demonstrate their alleged failure, when they were not able to meet their numbers.

A 41 year old employee, who suffered under this measure several times, reports that the dunce cap was moved from desk to desk until it ended up at her desk. Never in her life, she says, did she feel so belittled and ridiculed.

The harassment didn't end there:

In other call centers, coaches were made to wear ridiculous backpacks, if their team's performance did not meet the numbers. Other workers are being sent home to write an extended essay. The topic of the unpaid homework: "Why T-Mobile should keep employing me." The unionists document that if the result is not satisfying, continuous humiliation, discipline and even termination follow.

And the pressure to meet impossible performance goals has only been hurting customers. Der Spiegel writes that to keep up with the competition, T-Mobile has resorted to unsavory business practices:

Trying to meet the performance goals, employees have taken to using dubious methods, which T-Mobile internally calls "slamming." Slamming occurs when customers are buying a cell phone and costly features are being added to their account without their knowledge. That way, employees can improve their sales numbers temporarily.

CWA and ver.di are now developing a campaign on both side of the Atlantic to raise awareness about how T-Mobile treats employees.

Click here to read the full article in German. The English translation can be found here on CWA's website.

American Airlines Agents Storm Capitol Hill

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Sixteen former and current American Airlines passenger service agents lobby Senate offices.

Below: Agents and their supporters rally outside American Airlines Washington office.





American Airlines passenger service agents aren't backing down.

On Friday, 16 former and current employees — including some who were even facing layoffs at the close of business — visited U.S. Senate offices to raise awareness about American Airlines' dirty campaign to delay their right to vote in a union election. Then the agents and CWA supporters rallied outside American Airlines' lobbying office in Washington, D.C., to focus public attention on the airline's anti-democratic campaign to stop the vote.

American Airlines' actions have shown that it doesn't care much about its workers or passengers. AMR, the airline's parent company that filed for bankruptcy last year, continues to outsource jobs across its system, hiring low-paid contractors for hundreds of gate and ramp agent positions at the height of the busiest holiday travel season of the year.

"My last day was Tuesday and they put us out on the street with nothing," said Sylvia Solis, a former passenger service agent at Miami International Airport. "The outsourced people don't know how to check in an infant, and they think JFK is London. They do not have the slightest airline industry background."

Renee Similien had worked the First Class check-in counter at Logan Airport in Boston for the past 12 years until Friday, her last day of formal employment at American Airlines. She said she was working 50-60 hour weeks for the past several years saving for her child's college tuition, and her salary maxed out at $50,000 a year. "Everyone who was at max pay was kicked out," she said, adding that her replacement is currently making $9 an hour without benefits.

Following the orders of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the National Mediation Board scheduled an election for nearly 9,700 American Airlines agents to vote on union representation beginning December 4. Despite two determinations from the appeals court ordering that the vote go forward, American Airlines now is seeking a stay of those decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court.

AMR recently announced that since it filed for bankruptcy last November, it has spent over $200 million on fees and expenses related to the bankruptcy. Of that, AMR paid $19.5 million to the New York City-based law firm Paul Hastings LLP, to help the airline throw out existing union contracts and stop passenger service agents from voting in their democratic election.

LGBT Groups Stand with Agents at American Airlines

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Three national LGBT groups — Pride at Work, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund and National Stonewall Democrats — sent an open letter to American Airlines, condemning the company's "aggressive effort to prevent approximately 10,000 of your employees from holding a legal election to determine whether or not they will join a union." Read the letter here. And learn more about the campaign here.

The groups acknowledge the support that American Airlines over the years has demonstrated for full LGBT equality for all citizens.

However, for many LGBT workers, the only protection they have against workplace discrimination is through a legally enforceable collective bargaining agreement. "Many of the company's passenger service agents who are LGBT live in states like Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona that have little or no legal protections against workplace discrimination or for family recognition," they wrote.

"We understand the differences between attempts at marketing to our community and being fully supportive of all workers' rights to achieve full equality in our society. We encourage you to stand behind the principles you've supported in the past by halting your efforts at delaying a union election for your passenger service agents," they wrote.

Ken Merker has been an American Airlines agent in Miami for 20 years. "It gives me comfort knowing that American has been at the forefront of supporting LGBTQ issues as the airline industry has been home to many in our community. But the outsourcing of positions that had given us a chance at good jobs makes me question my future here. We've been fighting for our rights as a community for so long the last thing we need is for corporations to deny our right to vote in an election," he said.

Steve Langhi, an agent at Dallas-Ft. Worth said, "knowing how the company is trying to obstruct us in our election has a definite effect on the LGBTQ community because of our high profile in the industry."

The LGBT groups called on American Airlines to stop its needless and frivolous legal delays and allow agents to exercise their democratic right to vote. "Further delay for them is unacceptable," they declared.

CWA Workers Say: 'Not So Fast, EZ Pass'

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CWA members at the EZ Pass call center in Staten Island, N.Y., stood up to yet another management attack and voted to keep their union by a 114-107 vote.

Employer ACS/Xerox has waged one attack after another on the workgroup which first won their union two years ago. The company continued to appeal, then spent months stalling negotiations. Workers finally ratified their first contract last year after a tough 36-month battle.

The attacks didn't stop then. Management instigated the decertification election and illegally fired 18 workers, but through it all, workers stood together and stood up for their union.

The EZ Pass workers, some of whom lost their homes from flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, were determined to vote to keep their union, and they did.

A strong committee and support from CWA Local 1102 helped make the difference and helped workers keep their union voice.

Study: Filibuster Abuse Paralyzes Senate

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The overuse and misuse of the filibuster is crippling Congress, according to a new study from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

The report, "Curbing Filibuster Abuse," found:


  • The current Senate passed a record-low 2.8 percent of bills it introduced.
  • In the last three Congresses, the percentage of Senate floor activity devoted to cloture votes has been more than 50 percent greater than any other time since at least World War II.
  • Since 2006, the Senate filed 385 cloture motions — the only way to forcibly end a filibuster — greater than the total number filed between 1917 and 1988.
  • On average, it has taken 188 days to confirm a judicial nominee during the current Congress, creating 32 "judicial emergencies," as designated by the Office of U.S. Courts.

Read the full findings here.

How can we make the government work better? CWA is partnering with Alliance for Justice, Common Cause, AFL-CIO, NAACP and the Sierra Club to lead a broad coalition of progressive organizations — dubbed Fix the Senate Now — to support the Senate rules reform. Read more at

The Fight at Qwest Continues

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CWAers at Qwest continue their fight for a fair contract. In Minneapolis (above), members know "it takes all of us" and in Portland, Ore. (below), active and retired workers take a stand against contracting out.






CWA Launches First Annual Healthcare Matters Conference

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CWA healthcare workers from New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Iowa and as far away as California gathered for the first annual Healthcare Matters Conference in mid-October in Vernon Downs, NY.

The three-day event organized workshops on wide range of topics including IT trends, healthcare reform, safe patient handling and labor low. Speakers included CWA President Larry Cohen, District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton, NLRB Chair Mark Pearce and Susan Gordon, author of "Safety in Numbers" and "When Chicken Soup Isn't Enough."

"'Stand up and fight back' is much more now than a slogan," Cohen told conference attendees. "It's much more now than what we're going to do at our next bargaining fight. It's what we have to take into every community where we live. Some of them are tough communities in this part of New York State. We have to realize it's not where we come from or any of us come from, or what we look like or anything else. It's what we stand for. And we stand for economic justice. We stand for democracy. And I know the healthcare workers in this district will stand up and fight back."

Watch the full video about the conference's workshops, participants and speakers.

What are You Doing on 'Black Friday?'

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The Food and Commercial Workers Union is asking allies to support Walmart workers this "Black Friday," probably the busiest shopping day of the year.

Across the country, Walmart workers and supporters are standing up against the low-wages, increasing part-time only work and erratic scheduling that keep workers from being able to support their families. In many states, Walmart workers earn so little that they're eligible for food stamps, while the company takes in $16 billion in profits.

Here's a list of events that you can join.

Help Hurricane Sandy Victims Through CWA's Disaster Relief Fund


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CWA Local 1040 Staff, some pictured above, are seen with food and other items which they donated to the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in Ewing, NJ, which is responding to needs of victims of Hurricane Sandy and local families. The Local Staff donated over 500 pounds of food, over 1,000 diapers and more than 2,000 baby wipes through a $1,000.00 donation by the staff. (Photo courtesy of Local 1040 Viewpoint)

CWA's Disaster Relief Fund is helping to assist members experiencing a financial hardship in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The Fund may provide the member with a subsidy based on their essential losses associated with their primary home, and applications can be requested through your CWA Staff Representative.

CWA is also setting up another fund that would assist our sisters and brothers who have suffered losses or hardships in ways other than to their primary home. Donations can be made out and mailed to:

CWA Disaster Relief — Hurricane Sandy Fund
Secretary-Treasurer's Office
501 3rd St, NW
Washington, DC 20001

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