A group of CWA call center workers visited the Philippines last week to investigate corporate offshoring practices, expose rampant workers' rights violations in the Philippines by call center outsourcing giant Alorica, and to build global solidarity between workers. As AT&T and other companies have cut thousands of U.S. customer service jobs, they continue to offshore work and rely on overseas contractors like Alorica.
The delegation, led by CWA District 7 Vice President and chair of CWA's Customer Service program Brenda Roberts, met with leaders from the Unified Employees of Alorica (UEA) in Manila in a show of solidarity, and shared their experiences with each other, finding similarities between the ways the companies exploit the workers in the U.S. and in the Philippines. The CWA workers heard about how Filipino workers who participate in union activity are subject to physical threats and severe intimidation. AT&T, which is a major client of Alorica, has done nothing to address the severe union-busting and other rights violations in the Philippines.
Vice President Roberts said the one-on-one conversations with the Filipino workers were energizing. "I'm blown away by the courage of these workers who risk being arrested and put in jail, and yet they know that if we stick together that we are going to make progress and things will change," Roberts said.
"We have the same struggles, but if we stand together and fight through the struggles together, we all win," said CWA Local 6215 steward Kendra Williams, a fraud analyst at an AT&T call center who has worked for the company for 18 years. "We all have the common goal of fighting against corporate greed. Raising their wages is going to raise ours."
"AT&T is preying on workers here. They're getting paid less than $2 an hour and don't have basic rights," said Natalie Santiago, Executive Vice President of CWA Local 3122 in Miami. "If AT&T and Alorica would respect workers' rights, wages here would go up and AT&T would have to stop slashing U.S. jobs."
The visit took place during the AT&T Southeast unfair labor practice strike, and Alorica workers showed their solidarity with U.S. workers by pledging to monitor calls in case the company attempted to send calls that would have been handled by striking workers to their centers.
"AT&T workers across the globe face many of the same issues, which is why we are in this fight together," said Sarah Prestoza, President of the Unified Employees of Alorica.
The CWA delegation also attended the Uni Global Union conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They participated in discussions about how to face the challenges of technological change and learned about organizing victories around the world. The conference featured a video spotlighting Teleperformance workers in the Dominican Republic who won union representation with help from CWA, and telecom workers from 66 countries expressed their support for striking AT&T Southeast workers.
Above: CWA District 7 Vice President and chair of CWA's Customer Service program Brenda Roberts (third from right) led a delegation of CWA members who work at AT&T to Manila to learn more about conditions at AT&T contractor Alorica. They met with Unified Employees of Alorica President Sarah Prestoza (center) and Alorica workers and discussed their shared concerns and ways they could work together to fight corporate greed.
Below: Members of the BPO Industry Employees' Network (BIEN), a network of business process outsourcing employees in the Philippines that is allied with the Unified Employees of Alorica, showed their support for CWA members who were on strike at AT&T Southeast.