As coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, workers launch public campaign to urge Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile to provide a safe workplace, quota relief and paid sick days without penalty;
With more people now limiting personal contact and working remotely, it is critical for companies to protect wireless workers who will be addressing any communication issues that arise.
WASHINGTON - With the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country, workers at Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, supported by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), are demanding both companies take immediate steps to protect their employees and consumers from COVID-19, including providing paid sick days without penalty and ensuring a safe workplace at every retail store selling phones to the public. While union-represented workers at AT&T Mobility have been able to work with company management to establish proper protocols and working conditions, most Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile workers do not have union representation.
Protecting workers in the communications sector is of critical importance as governments continue to recommend that people limit personal contact and more workers work remotely.
The campaign comes as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has made clear that all companies should take steps to protect their workers and the public. The nature of a retail environment puts wireless workers at increased risk as they interact face-to-face with customers and handle phones that can be dirty and contaminated with viruses. Customer service representatives at call centers work in close conditions that can lead to outbreaks of infection.
"With coronavirus spreading across the country, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile must take immediate steps to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees, customers, and members of the public," said Melissa Matos, CWA Director of Health and Safety. “Every workplace must be safe, fully stocked with disinfectant wipes, gloves, and hand sanitizer stations, and every worker, especially those in retail environments and in crowded call centers should be provided paid sick days without penalty. Nothing is more important than keeping people safe, especially during a public health crisis. Verizon and T-Mobile have a responsibility to take action for their employees and customers.”
The workers have outlined steps that Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile must implement at all locations to protect their employees and customers, including:
- Grant all employees - including those under voluntary or involuntary quarantine, or with signs of COVID-19 or influenza - full access to paid sick leave and waive penalties associated with their use, including quota relief.
- Fully stock EPA-registered disinfectant wipes for customers and employees to wipe down phones and touchscreens.
- Provide powder-free nitrile gloves in different sizes for employees handling phones or other possibly contaminated devices.
- Install ‘hands-free’ hand sanitizer stations for customer and worker use.
"With more people forced to work from home because of coronavirus, the public will be counting on wireless workers everywhere -- customer service reps at call centers and in store as well as technicians -- to quickly and effectively resolve issues they are having with their service," said Jennifer Womack, a Verizon Wireless call center representative in Irving, Tex. "Many of us will need to stop working due to this pandemic because call centers or stores are forced to close or we get sick or must care for a loved one affected by COVID-19. To protect ourselves, our co-workers and our communities, we must have paid sick days that can be taken without disciplinary consequences and relief from quotas at Verizon.”
"T-Mobile's response to COVID-19 has shown how the company values its front-line hourly workers versus its salaried employees,” said Mark Jenkins, chief steward of T-Mobile Workers United in Bellingham, Wash. “Well-paid corporate salaried employees are given ready access to working from home, meanwhile the majority of T-Mobile's front line workers in retail and call centers haven't been afforded any guarantee of paid leave. This shows how T-Mobile undervalues the health and safety of its front-line employees and the general public. I personally have an immunocompromised partner and feel that policies like T-Mobile's and similar ones at other companies put my family at risk.”