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New Report Exposes Labor Relations Double Standard at T-Mobile USA

December 9, 2009

Josh Goldstein
202-822-2127 x118
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T-Mobile USA’s parent company, Deutsche Telekom, respects its German workers’ rights, while its U.S. workers suffer

(Washington, DC) – Today the American Rights at Work Education Fund issued a comprehensive report exposing a systematic campaign to prevent employees from forming a union by T-Mobile USA and its parent company, German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom (DT). The report, “Lowering the Bar or Setting the Standard? Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. Labor Practices,” presents overwhelming evidence that DT is guilty of operating by a double standard: The company respects workers’ rights in Germany, where it cooperates closely with unions, but mistreats workers in the United States and interferes with their right to organize. 

“Respecting workers’ rights and needs benefits employees, their families, and a company’s bottom line. T-Mobile’s parent company became a leader in the telecom industry in Europe by working with their employees and proving that there is a better way to do business,” says Kimberly Freeman Brown, Executive Director of American Rights at Work Education Fund. “It is inexcusable that our dysfunctional labor law system allowed T-Mobile USA to disregard its employees’ rights here in the United States.”

The failure of U.S. labor law to protect America’s workers from pervasive unionbusting is well-documented. Yet little attention has been paid to the practice of foreign companies operating in cooperation with their employees in their home countries, where labor laws are stronger, while failing to respect the rights of their workers in the United States. The same company, under two different systems of law, results in two very different situations for workers.

Based on Deutsche Telekom’s strong record of supporting workers’ rights in Europe, the American labor movement helped open the door for the company to enter the U.S. wireless market in 2001. Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), says, “Since then, we have seen no respect for workers’ rights, just eight years of intolerance and hostility toward workers and complete disregard of their rights to organize and bargain collectively. It’s now time to hold DT and T-Mobile USA accountable.”

The disparities between employees of Deutsche Telekom on opposite sides of the Atlantic have led to an unprecedented partnership between U.S. and German workers. CWA and ver.di, which is Germany’s largest union, have joined forces to create a new union known as TU to collectively advance fair treatment and collective bargaining for all DT workers.

“We believe that through this new union, we will contribute to better working conditions for workers in both countries,” says Lothar Schröder, member of the Federal Executive of ver.di. “Management must get used to the idea that we are representing the interests not only of German workers but of American workers as well. This is the right response to globalization.”

CWA and ver.di have been working with UNI Global Union to win a commitment from T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom that it would guarantee basic worker and union rights to all of its employees everywhere in the world. “This agreement would end the double standard now in place when it comes to workers’ rights,” said UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings.

The report, by John Logan, Ph.D., Director of Labor Studies, San Francisco State University, is available in English and German.

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American Rights at Work – http://www.americanrightsatwork.org – is the nation’s leading labor policy and advocacy organization dedicated to educating the American public about the barriers that workers face when they attempt to exercise their rights to freely and fairly form unions and engage in collective bargaining.