In a big victory, T-Mobile US workers have regained their right to speak out at work and other important rights on the job. The National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit have ordered T-Mobile to rescind its illegal workplace rules as of today, September 29, to notify all workers that this action has been taken, and to correct the current employee handbook and other work rules.
The NLRB notified T-Mobile of the Court’s decision enforcing the Board’s order earlier this month. In addition to the September 29 deadline for notification to all employees, T-Mobile must post notices in every workplace by October 6, alerting employees that the illegal rules are no longer in force.
T-Mobile was cited by the NLRB and the Court for 12 illegal workplace rules. T-Mobile workers, with the support of T-Mobile Workers United and the Communications Workers of America, fought back against this corporate gag rule that affected tens of thousands of workers.
A Judge found that, among other things, T-Mobile’s illegal job rules were written such that:
- Workers were barred from discussing their wages and salaries with coworkers, the public, their union, or government investigators.
- Workers were prohibited from disclosing and discussing other terms and conditions of employment, thanks to a vague and far-reaching confidentiality policy.
- Workers were prohibited from using cameras or any other electronic devices to document unsafe conditions in the workplace or other problems.
- Workers were prohibited from disclosing the identity of those involved in company investigations, keeping workers from working together to fight issues like sexual harassment.
- Workers were required, under threat of firing, to sign a form stating that they would comply with the company’s illegal rules and report anyone who violated the illegal rules -- i.e., report those who exercise their rights under the law.
T-Mobile workers welcomed the decision, which came after years of hearings and appeals by the company. According to Justin Smith, a Messaging Specialist at the call center in Wichita, KS, “This is a big win for employees and another indication that unless we take a stand to force T-Mobile to follow the rules, they won't. It demonstrates the power of collective action.”
Victoria Singer, a Retail Support Representative at a call center in Albuquerque, NM, said, “T-Mobile is right in line with corporate America, implementing a multitude of rules meant to keep workers from talking to each other about our pay and working conditions. It’s a blatant attempt to keep us from organizing to improve our jobs and our lives. I’m proud to have been part of an effort to expose these illegal rules for what they are.”
“For years, T-Mobile maintained workplace rules that silenced, isolated, and surveilled workers. This was an unlawful regime. It stifled the employees’ right to organize. But thanks to some brave employees standing up and standing together, the rights of tens of thousands of American workers will now be affirmed. Their freedom of speech and freedom of association are being restored. And they can use those rights to bargain for a better deal at work. Exercising that organizing power isn’t just a good thing for them and their families, it’s good for their company, their communities, and the country at large,” said CWA General Counsel Jody Calemine.
T-Mobile Workers United, CWA Local 6457, is an organization of T-Mobile and MetroPCS employees joining together for a voice and fair treatment on the job, and to work for positive change at the company.
CWA represents 700,000 working people in telecommunications, media, airlines, public service and manufacturing.