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Labor News

Call-centre workers expose Deutsche Telekom double standard to global panel of inquiry into workers rights

Charleston, South Carolina — Call-centre workers from T-Mobile USA, owned by Deutsche Telekom, gave evidence exposing the stark difference in workplace conditions between the US and Germany to an international hearing today in Charleston. The hearing came after a week-long visit to South Carolina workplaces from Berlin based call centre workers from the ver.di union in Germany. ver.di is Germany’s largest union, representing 2 million workers.

The multi national communications company negotiates with the German union for workplace conditions with union representation a key part of the company culture, but the management does not allow the same practices in the USA.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation said Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Oberman and the German Government must listen to the voice of workers, and they have a responsibility to fix the abuses in their company. “There are companies respected in Europe, behaving badly right here in the US. German people need to know what is happening to workers in the USA.  They would be appalled to think the company they are so proud of, that bears the German name, could be treating workers to fear and intimidation.”

“We’re saying to T-Mobile, we expect better of you. Workers rights don’t stop at the German border, they’re for all people,” said Sharan Burrow.

“Workers doing the same job for the same company deserve to be treated the same. Why do one set of workers in the US face threats and intimidation for wanting to be represented by a union, while others in Germany get a seat at the management table,” said Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America.

Brutal local management methods in the US have included having workers being forced to wear a dunce cap to humiliate them when performance measures slipped. Workers spoke about the culture of fear and pressure every day to keep responses to customer calls under 360 seconds, despite it being a call-centre to speak to customers.  Felicia Smalls a call-centre worker in Charleston told the panel “I want to keep my job, and make it better.” Management of the multinational prevents workers from acting together to improve working conditions and keep jobs in the US.

Tomas Lenki, a ver.di union member from Deutsche Telekom in Berlin, said, “We have gathered numerous stories of attacks on workers’ rights and passed them on to our board of Human Resources. We’ve been told they are isolated cases and the behavior has stopped. What we have seen in first hand conversations in Charleston this week is in stark contrast to what Deutsche Telekom has told us. We feel betrayed and lied to from board of Deutsche Telekom. They may tell you we are not unionised but we tell you 2 million ver.di members have your back.”

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said “T-Mobile workers have spoken in Charleston. They are not prepared to be treated as second class citizens in the Deutsche Telekom global network. Deutsche Telekom must take responsibility and change its behavior. UNI and the global trade union movement demand Deutsche Telekom act now.”

The global panel of political, religious and labour leaders included James Clyburn, Member of US Congress; Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC, and Reverend John Paul Brown. The global campaign ‘We expect better’ in 2013 will include more worker exchanges between Germany and the US and political pressure on Deutsche Telekom’s largest shareholder the Germany Government in an important election year.


With cheaper U.S. Labor
Did we make it to the bottom? Well, we must be close. Close enough that U.S. industrial giant Caterpillar has locked out workers at the Electro-Motive Diesel plant in London, Ontario and threatened a permanent closing and moving of the plant to Muncie, IN where workers earn less.
Would we like to have those jobs? Hell, yes! But I get a belly ache when I realize that they (the capitalists) are playing us against our brothers and sisters in Canada. We’re being used in the same way they played the cheaper labor game to move jobs out of the U.S.
The best way to cow a population is starvation. Take away the work for a few years and let desperation set in. Then, when we’re not so high and mighty, they trust that we’d turn our backs on our fellow workers and be grateful. They’re treating us like dogs fighting for scraps under the table.
This is an insult to Canadian and U.S. labor, as well as world labor. It’s an old game that we should fight against. I recommend lettering and emailing CATERPILLAR. I also recommend that any of you that are union members propose to your locals that they issue statements of support for the Caterpillar workers in London, Ontario.
This won’t stop until it doesn’t work for them anymore. Help make sure they know that world labor is putting an end to it.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On FAA Shut Down

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
On FAA Shut Down
July 25, 2011

Yet again, the House Republicans are playing politics instead of building a strong, secure America. In another blatant example of political theater, the House Republicans refused to pass a routine measure to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), forcing lay-offs of thousands of FAA and construction workers, with tens of thousands more jobs at risk.

Republican members of Congress need to stop playing ideological games and get down to the serious business of creating jobs, instead of laying off FAA aviation experts and tens of thousands of construction workers, who are already experiencing close to 20 percent unemployment rates nationally. Adding insult to injury, just as the government reaches its debt limit, this disruption of the FAA means that aviation taxes – totaling up to $200 million a week – that normally fund our aviation infrastructure may instead end up in the airlines’ pockets.

The House Republicans are undertaking this extraordinary disruption of the operations of the FAA for one reason – to play to a political ideology focused on scapegoating workers. Instead of laying off the people responsible for safe, secure aviation, our elected leaders ought to be building a high wage, high skill economy where our middle class is strong and America thrives.


Seattle – Today the NFL owners announced that they would not be conducting a lock-out of the NFL Players Association.
They have opted instead to outsource and offshore the league, and have released the new team locations and any name changes that are in the works.
Among some of the changes that fans can expect have The New England Patriots moved to the Caribbean and re-named The Haiti Pirates. Also announced: the Yokohama 49ers, the Amsterdam Falcons and the Zhengzhou Seahawks among others.
A spokesman for the owners said “We expect the changes to be well received by the fans, and will improve the overall quality of play in a global market.”
One exception has emerged in the Detroit Lions. No other city has made a bid to host the team.

Get People Back to Working

We’ve seen people beginning to wake up. WI shows it, as well as mass demonstrations in other states. IAFF will not participate in national politics, and Trumka announced that AFL-CIO will not support the Democratic Party at the national level. I hope that CWA will make a similar announcement. While both organizations have said that the funds will be re-directed to the state and local level, I would like to suggest that some of the funds be used for the purpose of establishing a manufacturing base of factories and retail outlets owned, operated and administered by our unions. We don’t need no boss! We can do it all ourselves.

Shame on Tom Brokaw and NBC Nightly News

The legendary journalist, Tom Brokaw, now a Special Correspondent for NBC News, apparently abandoned his commitment to true journalism to tote the corporate line when it comes to immigration and the H-1B Visa. In Tom Brokaw’s report,  Brokaw uses an anecdotal example of SnapDeal, a company started in India by an Indian entrepreneur who happened to have spent some time in the U.S. on an H-1B Visa. Brokaw’s premise is that the U.S. somehow "lost out" by not keeping this entrepreneur here so that he could start his company in the U.S. The problem with this premise is that it is an insult to all American tech workers and entrepreneurs. It basically says that we can’t start our own businesses here in this country and we have to have someone from a different country to do it for us, which is just nonsense.

Of course, no corporate shilling news report is complete without a quote from the shilling clown himself, Vivek Wadhwa.  This "news story" does not disappoint. Anyone familiar with Wadhwa knows that he cannot intelligently participate in a debate with anyone who disagrees with him.  He typically breaks down into yelling over his opponent and accusing them and anyone else who disagrees with him as being xenophobes.

Even if this Indian company was started here in the U.S., what are the chances that it would hire any of the unemployed American tech workers? It would likely hire other foreign tech workers on Visas, or outsource much of the work to India with little benefit to the U.S. or the American worker.

The real reason the Koch Brothers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Indian outsourcing/offshoring companies, and many other corporate entities want to eliminate caps on these Visas cannot be stated any better than the last paragraph of an article in the Deccan Chronicle.  The article is titled "Rising US visa rejections take toll on Indian IT cos" and it explains that an increase in the L-1/H-1B Visa rejection rate from four percent to eight percent is putting a crimp on profits for Indian outsourcing/offshoring companies.  The last paragraph reads:

"Stricter visa norms could also force Indian IT firms to start local hiring at a faster pace than what they are doing at present. This could also end up pushing costs because the average age of IT workers in the US tends to be higher — which also means higher salaries."

In other words, it’s all about cheap wages and age discrimination.  Heaven forbid we hire any IT worker over 40 and pay them enough so that they can keep making their mortgage payments and feed their family.

Education hurts you in today’s job market

For each job opening in America, there are 5 applicants.  In this video, Mike Papantonio and investigative journalist Andy Kroll discuss how education makes it much harder to find a job, especially if you are over 45.  They also discuss how the U.S. Chamber of Congress, the front organization for Corporate America which bought congressional offices for Republicans in the midterm election, is succeeding in their goal of eliminating the middle class and promoting a low-wage-only workforce.

PROSA: Stop the abuse of Indian IT workers

A wage far below the Danish minimum wage, a life of board and lodging and being tied to the workplace with the threat of repatriation should silence any criticism. That is the reality of Indian IT professionals in Denmark’s second largest IT company CSC, as with the Immigration Agency’s endorsement they are working in unbearable conditions in Denmark. That was documented on a spots in the radio program “P1 Orientation” on Monday evening. Continue reading

Next in externalizing costs: Pay rent for your desk at work?

Remember several months back when Microsoft forced its contingent staff (also known as contractors or permatemps) to take a 10% pay cut? This same pay cut ended up being quite a bit more than 10% for many, especially for those who were forced to leave a contract and come back under a new contract.

Office Desk For RentWell, apparently Microsoft isn’t done in it’s quest to increase its bottom line.  The last pay cut drew a lot of negative publicity, since Microsoft was seen as taking advantage of the weak economy and in turn, hurting the local economy even more.  So, Microsoft is looking to use a more indirect approach by externalizing more of its costs.

Rumor has it that Microsoft is going to require its contractors who are categorized as “Vendors” (also known as “vee dash” since their email addresses start with a “v-“) to pay rent for the desks that they are using within the Microsoft facilities.  Microsoft’s rationale behind it is that these contractors can work on Microsoft’s projects anywhere, so providing a desk and a chair within the Microsoft facilities is considered a “service to the contractor”.  Microsoft is allegedly going to start charging the vendor class of contractors $400 per month starting in January of 2010.

So, you may be asking, “What is the difference between a vendor class contractor and the other contractors at Microsoft?”  Well, as far as job function goes, there really isn’t any difference.  They work on the same projects and in the same groups at Microsoft.  The differences are administrative.  One difference that many are familiar with is that vendor class contractors are not required to take a 100 day break from Microsoft after a year of service.  Vendor class contractors are also required to provide their own computer.  And apparently, starting in January, these contractors will be required to pay rent to Microsoft in order to have a desk to work at within the Microsoft facilities.  Not surprisingly, vendor class contracting appears to be becoming Microsoft’s preferred way of doing business when it comes to onsite staff.

Labor Needs Its Own Party

Dan Gillespie

The President, Barack Obama, spoke at the AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention yesterday.  He said a lot of the same things he said to congress in his address on health care reform; I haven’t heard that there were any rude interruptions.

Being a political speech to labor he expressed the things we want to hear, health care and the Employee Free Choice Act.  I believe his sincerity, and in his opening remarks he congratulated those new officers elected adding “I’m looking forward to working with all of you.”  I feel that he is one of us.

He called us brothers and sisters and said that we are in this together.  I believe in him as a man, and I trust in him as a politician.

But I no longer trust party politics.

Later in his speech President Obama made what I think is the statement that we as rank and file members of the labor movement should consider as the most important:

“Few have fought for this cause harder, and few have championed it longer than you, our brothers and sisters in organized labor. You’re making phone calls, knocking on doors, and showing up at rallies”.

He was referring to the health care campaign, but it is true of all political and policy campaigns that we commit to.  That is what we do.  We organize, stump, doorbell and phone bank.  We give time, money and personal commitment to win the political influence in our municipalities, counties, states and at the federal level hoping to affect legislation favorable to American Labor.

But, it has become obvious to this observer that we and our efforts have been taken for granted.  We participated and celebrated in victories on the national level and in our own states that would not have been possible without us.  They need us to win.

It is disheartening to see the political party that’s “Labor’s best friend” turn their backs on us and pass legislation that only serves corporations.  Well, get a dog because nobody else is gonna love ya.

My proposal is this: form our own parties in each state of the union.  Labor councils and locals come together in convention to create our own political entities, run our own candidates.  Drop support for the two major parties and refuse to support any of their candidates.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and the political scene is vacuous indeed, so we should fill it.

The process that we’ve had for wielding our political influence has broken down to the point we do the bidding of party bosses that advance their own agendas.  There have been many cases where the only time they think of us is for money and volunteers.

You cannot ask someone to fight for you and expect to get what you want.  So, I would like to end with another quote from the President: “Now is the time for action.” Strap on your boots and toe the line.

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