t-mobile storeT-Mobile has a nasty habit of intimidating its employees from joining unions, including repeated instances of turning surveillance and security guards on employees and organizers.

A new report from Labor Professor John Logan published by American Rights at Work details multiple violations of the law by T-Mobile, recurring intimidation of employees, and what one employee called a “culture of fear” preventing employees from joining together in a union.

Workers have roundly criticized what one Allentown-based employee called the “culture of fear” that management has created around the issues of unionization and collective bargaining. “We have to be secretive,” he explains, “like spies.” Another employee elaborated on this culture of fear: “We are basically left to fear for our jobs on a daily basis, or just quit…. In the past [some workers] tried to contact a union and were then fired. [I’m afraid] this is what will happen to me.”

What makes up the “culture of fear” for T-Mobile corporate management?

Twice in early 2006, management at a call center in Allentown, PA, directed private security guards to intervene when union organizers were distributing fliers outside the main entrance of the workplace. The company-controlled security guards illegally pre-vented employees from accepting the union fliers and illegally recorded the license plate numbers of those employees who did accept them. The impact of these actions was to intimidate union supporters, as was their intent. The coercive surveillance practices of the guards, the NLRB ruled, violated the National Labor Relations Act.

Two years later, the union found that management was still using guards and security cameras to intimidate pro-union employees. Incidents of anti-union intimidation have reportedly created a “culture of fear” at T-Mobile USA retail stores throughout Pennsylvania. The National Labor Relations Board rejected T-Mobile USA’s explanation for [an anti-union] memo, finding that, by encouraging employees to report union activity to management, the company had once again violated workers’ rights.

Of course, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handed the company one of its harshest penalties: forcing the company to post a flier and promise not to break the law again.

[T-Mobile] promised that it would not threaten union supporters with reprisals, interrogate them about union activities, suggest that workers would be forced to quit due to union activities, or otherwise interfere with their rights. [...]

The NLRB settlement mandated that the company post notices in work areas stating that employees are protected in their efforts to form a union and do not have to report to management about their union activities or anything they observe about their coworkers. T-Mobile USA agreed to the settlement and posted the required notices, though this type of settlement is unlikely to serve as a deterrent against similar anti-union behavior in the future.

Yes, that’s the harshest penalty available, and a great example of why we need labor law reform like the Employee Free Choice Act.

You can keep up with this campaign by taking action with American Rights at Work or United Students against Sweatshops.  Photo via Gadget Virtuoso on Flickr.