Workers Fear Getting Fired “for Even Speaking with a Union Rep”

7. März 2011: The employee interviewed is a tech support representative in a major T-Mobile call center.

In the years that he’s worked for T-Mobile, he’s seen the pressure go from bad to worse in his call center. Training has “always been awful,” but recently he was assigned to new tasks with no guidance at all. Resources for answering customers’ tech questions are so limited he’s often “searching Google frantically” to find help. Managers even threw out sample phones that tech support once used to walk callers through their menus.

“They figured it slowed us down on calls, because we were actually helping the customers,” he says. If that sounds cynical, consider that every minute of a representative’s day is evaluated and judged against standards that change frequently. He says workers are under the constant threat of being fired, and “it’s not uncommon in six months to see two or three employees on a team of 12 terminated.”
That doesn’t count those who just can’t take the stress anymore and quit. “Eventually, the customers don’t get to you,” he says. “You get used to that. That’s just the nature of the job. What really creates a problem is management and their expectations.”

One expectation is that you’d better not say anything good about a union or be caught talking to a union organizer. But union-bashing is fine. He’s heard a few loud comments from workers who he says “are permitted to speak negatively on work hours regarding the union. But if I open my mouth and say something positive regarding CWA or organizing, I could be terminated.”

And that threat follows him home. He describes T-Mobile’s highly restrictive policy barring public comments about the company. Even an anonymous comment on a social networking site could get someone in trouble if it were traced back, but he says there’s one area where the company makes no effort to investigate: anti-union posts. “However, if I were to speaking positively about unionization, I’d last five minutes. I would be out the door, whether it be online, whether at work, or on lunch or afterward,” he says.

Management engages in its own union-bashing, such as captive-audience meetings where workers are forced to listen to bosses tell them why the union is bad. He describes one such meeting led by a top manager: “He basically framed the union as a business organization – that they were trying to get money from us. And if we joined a union, if we unionized the call center, we weren’t going to have the fun incentives, which we had at that time, but no longer have. Additionally, T-Mobile could take its business elsewhere; they could just relocate the call center or ship the jobs we had offshore. It was a threat.”