Local union representatives garnered more than a little attention as they waved signs and chanted in front of T-Mobile’s American headquarters in Bellevue on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
The representatives from the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO and National Employment Law Project were at T-Mobile’s campus to present 15,000 signatures on a petition “urging the company to stop silencing women who speak out against sexual harassment.”
The grievance goes back to 2014, when T-Mobile worker Angela Agganis complained to human resources that her manager at a T-Mobile call center in Maine was sexually harassing her. She was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement and told if she spoke about the details of the investigation, she could lose her job.
Agganis signed the agreement, then resigned. She has since sued the company after meeting with her union, T-Mobile Workers United. She had worked at T-Mobile for eight years before the incident.
Jeanne Stewart, president of the local branch of the Communication Workers of America, said she and the union were standing up for workers rights.
“The policy was only changed at her call center,” she said. “We’re here to try and make that change and show our support for our fellow workers.”
Because of the ongoing lawsuit, T-Mobile could not comment on the particulars of the case. Company representative Annie Garrigan did release a statement.
“T-Mobile is committed to maintaining a workplace environment where our employees feel safe and respected. The documents referred to were solely intended to protect the privacy of our employees and the integrity of any investigations. We have already removed the confidentiality language in question and obviously can’t comment any further on any ongoing legal cases.”
After two findings by the Labor Relations Board in March and August, Garrigan said confidentiality rules had been changed.
Those protesting said they were not aware of any change in practices.
Rebecca Smith, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, said the company response was too little and underlined a bigger problem.
“We have to try to convince T-Mobile that gagging employees is wrong,” she said. “When women are victims of sexual harassment the company can’t just force them to be quiet.”
Several dozen protestors and union representatives waved bright pink signs urging T-Mobile to “stop muzzling women” at the corner of Southeast 36th Street and 131st Avenue Southeast, earning honks and waves from passing motorists.
Kimberly Anderson, an AT&T Mobility worker, said she stood in solidarity with Agganis.
“We wireless workers have to stick together and fight back attempts to pit us against each other in a race to the bottom. Whatever happens at T-Mobile concerns everyone working in wireless,” she said. “An injury to one is an injury to us all.”
The text of the petition is a simple one.
“It’s time to stop silencing women who speak out against harassment. T-Mobile should retract these policies in every workplace in the United States and inform their employees of the retraction and of their rights to speak out.
Everyone, especially victims of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, must be made aware of their right to speak out and to seek support from others about workplace issues.
We have a right to a safe workplace, and a right to speak out when we’re harassed!
End the intimidation and gag orders today.”
15,000 workers signed the petition. T-Mobile employs more than 45,000 workers in North America.