Call Center Unions Build International Connections
Date Written: 2017-06-30
Publisher: Labor Notes
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21046
One big issue in the three-day strike by 38,000 AT&T workers was the company's offshoring of jobs. To shine a spotlight on the issue and strengthen international solidarity, a group of union members visited the Dominican Republic a couple of weeks before the strike to meet the call center workers on the other end of that offshoring.
Local 7750 member Mimi Mahdi, who works at the DirecTV call center in Denver, Colorado, was one of three CWA members on the delegation to the Dominican Republic, along with one union staffer and a representative of the UNI Global union federation.
Mahdi was "appalled" by what she learned on her trip. "The pay is terrible," she said. "They do not get paid to go to the bathroom. They do not get paid for their 15-minute breaks. They do not get paid overtime.
"Their managers manipulate all their information so that they don’t get their commissions or monthly bonuses. A lot of the women say they have to sleep with management to get ahead, or they're threatened to get fired."
Mahdi and the others joined Dominican union organizers to hand out leaflets outside two call centers in Santo Domingo. "All of the call centers are behind tall locked gates, like prison gates, which is strange and depressing," she said. "As the workers went in the gates, they had to give the leaflets to the security, and they were even attempting to check the employees’ pockets and pat them down."
Nevertheless, Mahdi says, Dominican workers "were excited that we were there to support them becoming unionized, and happy to meet us."