“Tyranny is the right expression for this”

19. November 2012: Introduction for publication of Videos and texts of T-Mobile employees. By Lothar Schröder, member of ver.di National Executive Board.

Click here to get to the reports

T-Mobile USA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom – the largest German telecommunications company, and he Federal Republic of Germany still retains a 30 percent stake. As a trade unionist with a Supervisory Board position at Deutsche Telekom, I feel obliged to pay attention to the working conditions of our foreign colleagues.

In summer 2012, I visited brothers and sisters at our sister union, CWA, who are organizing T-Mobile workers. What I witnessed in the U.S. fundamentally contradicts my understanding of fair treatment of employees and communities, as usually practiced in Germany at Deutsche Telekom although we have our disputes as well. I have thought for a long time about the right expression to describe the reality of what workers face in the U.S. I would describe it as tyranny.

Employees at T-Mobile are not only subject to arbitrary performance demands and harassment at their workplaces, but they also lack protection against dismissal. Pressure to sell by using immoral methods, disrespectful behavior, arbitrary discipline practices, and threats to be dismissed are part of their daily experience and lead to distress, sicknesses and high turnover.
It is not possible to resist the system of hire-and-fire without a union. Workers in the U.S. don’t have access to German Works Councils – which allow workers to acquire a voice and represent their interests. T-Mobile management is actively fighting against such employee representation.

During the next several weeks on this website, we will give the floor to our brothers and sisters from T-Mobile who will describe in strong and moving words their reality at work. Some of them have left the company because of work-related stress, some have been fired under various pretexts, but others are still there and trying, despite so many obstacles, to achieve better working conditions, respect and dignity, and a voice at work for themselves and their fellow employees.

In this effort, we should, and will, support them, as long as it takes to make Deutsche Telekom management truly recognize union rights in the USA and to develop, in cooperation with the unions, a socially responsible staff policy based on mutual recognition at T-Mobile.

Management must preserve neutrality during union recognition procedures in order for employees to have any chance at deciding for a voice at work.
I warmly recommend these texts and videos. Deutsche Telekom is a German company, and in its name, our U.S. brothers and sisters are denied basic rights. This affects all of us.