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Businessweek Unmasks T-Mobile's Sham Union

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Bloomberg Businessweek just exposed T-Mobile's attempt to fight a real union by creating a fake one.

In a sign of management's desperation to stop TU, T-Mobile launched its own company union called "T-Voice" in 2015. This copycat organization was "chartered" to be the employees' "voice" and address "pain points." Yet management funds this organization and has the power to disband it anytime it sees fit. T-Voice representatives aren't elected, but selected by management. In short, T-Voice is completely controlled by T-Mobile.

Workers weren't fooled, and this month, T-Mobile workers at five call centers are electing stewards for TU, the real union for T-Mobile workers in the U.S. and Germany. Two at-large stewards, representing call center and retail store workers, also will be elected.

CWA has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), asserting that T-Voice is an illegal, "company-dominated" labor organization, an anti-union tactic that Congress banned in 1935.

"They're funding this sham union, and it is totally and absolutely illegal, and it is total and absolute nonsense," said CWA President Chris Shelton in an interview. "If they want to know what the problems are at T-Mobile, they could meet with folks who are elected by the people of T-Mobile and not by the CEO."

Businessweek points out that in the New Deal-era, businesses often set up their own fake unions to "sap support" from workers' bids to win an independent voice. William Gould IV, NLRB chairman under President Bill Clinton, said, "The idea was to take the wind out of the sails of employees who wanted a free union: 'Here, we've got a system of representation for you.'"

Since then, there have been a scarce number of "company unions."

While business groups have asked Congress to loosen the law, T-Mobile is the perfect example of why this ban needs to be upheld. "This is the equivalent of allowing Mexico to choose the U.S. trade representative," said Jody Calemine, CWA's general counsel. "I think it's common sense that that is a conflict of interest."