“You’ve Got to Level the Playing Field”

17 March 2011: The worker interviewed is a switch tech who keeps the T-Mobile network running.

Some years back, the worker remembers talking with colleagues who “were very against” a union. He asked them why.

“They said, ‘We don’t need that here.’ And I said ‘In certain industries it’s been traditional that companies become abusive.’ And now the company’s become abusive. So those same guys who didn’t want a union, guess what they want now? They signed cards. We’re all for it.”

He and his coworkers have seen their benefits and pay increases shrink, despite being pushed to do more without adequate training or direction. He says the only time things improve, however superficially, is when management gets worried about union activity.

“They haven’t mentioned the word ‘union,’ they pretend it doesn’t exist,” he says. “But all of sudden there’s money falling out of the sky. ‘We’re going to make your calling plan better. Do you guys want uniforms?’ Guys had asked for stuff and they’d say, ‘Well, we have to look at it; it’s expensive.’ All of a sudden, they can order jackets, boots, whatever you want.”

But workers aren’t in a mood to be bribed anymore, he says. They want a voice on the job, and in their futures. With a union contract, “You have some guarantees,” he says. “I mean, we don’t have a pension, number one. Raises aren’t guaranteed.”

And why, he wonders, should he have to meet goals that have nothing to do with his own job? “I don’t want to have a review,” he says. “There’s nothing to really judge what I do. I fix things and I connect things. So they have, on our reviews, like, ‘I have to participate with other teams to help a goal get achieved.’ That has nothing to do with where I work. I just want to come to work and do my job and go home. That’s all everybody else wants to do.

“I care about my customers. I mean, I’m here to make a system work, and that’s what I do.”