Washington, D.C. – On Nov. 1, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Acting General Counsel Lafe E. Solomon announced that the U.S. government would prosecute T-Mobile US for violating U.S. labor law.
The government now intends to prove that T-Mobile US illegally fired Joshua Coleman and disciplined Ellen Brackeen, who both worked at a call center in Wichita, Kan., because of their union activity.
“The General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board has taken an important step in prosecuting T-Mobile US on the discharge of Josh Coleman, as well as discipline against Ellen Brackeen,” said CWA President Larry Cohen. “The NLRB will also reopen the charge related to destroying Josh's notebooks documenting discrimination for union activity at the site. This action by the General Counsel is rare and speaks to the systematic abuse of workers’ rights by T-Mobile US and the hands off approach by the Deutsche Telekom, a German corporation that owns 75 percent of T-Mobile US. Earlier this year several thousand Deutsche Telekom workers in Germany wore shirts to work and other public events that said, ‘We are all Josh.’
“All of us in CWA and the German union ver.di applaud the action of the General Counsel, and we look forward to the day when T-Mobile US is tolerant of those who organize, just as its German owner Deutsche Telekom has been for generations.”
A date for the hearing will be set by the NLRB.
Today’s decision again exposes T-Mobile US management’s harassment of workers who only want a voice in their workplace. German workers have bargaining rights and union representation, and Deutsche Telekom publicly acknowledges the value of its relationship with ver.di. But in the United States, T-Mobile US management has stepped up a campaign of fear, intimidation and harassment against U.S. workers who want the same union voice.
Coleman worked for three and half years at a T-Mobile customer call center, where he was a top performer, receiving many promotions, performance awards and written commendations. He also was selected to train newly hired employees. That all changed as Coleman continued to voice his support for union representation on the job. He said, “I was an active and vocal supporter of having a union and getting a voice on the job for my co-workers and myself. I was targeted and ultimately fired for this activity, despite the fact that none of the allegations made against me were true.”
Coleman was fired in May 2013, and CWA immediately filed unfair labor practice charges.
From the beginning, CWA has been clear that these two workers – particularly Coleman – were singled out because of their union activity. Coleman was fired “without adhering to normal disciplinary procedures” and “pursuant to policies that were unwritten, unannounced and unknown” to Coleman and other T-Mobile US workers in Wichita. When Coleman returned to the call center to retrieve his personal belongings, he learned that pages containing notes about his union activities and those of his co-workers had been removed from his notebook. The call center’s human resources director said she read the notes, considered them to be confidential T-Mobile information and confiscated them. This is direct and clear evidence of T-Mobile US’s harassment, intimidation and animus toward workers who want union representation.
Ver.di has made clear that the reasons for the nationwide protests by German workers are the continued attacks against employees who actively support the union, and the anti-union attitude from upper management of the U.S. subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom. Employees who want independent representation through a union face sanctions up to and including dismissal. Ver.di leader Lothar Schröeder has repeatedly called for Coleman’s reinstatement.