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Protesters decry T-Mobile's decision to close call centers
More than 100 former employees, union representatives and others lined the streets outside T-Mobile's Bellevue headquarters to protest the company's decision to close seven call centers.
Protesters alleged that T-Mobile closed the call centers with the intention of opening new centers overseas in areas such as Honduras and the Philippines.
"They've dropped the call on this one," Lynne Dodson, secretary of treasury for the Washington Labor Council, said of the Bellevue-based organization.
Representatives of the company denied this charge.
Several workers from the call centers proposed to be closed over the next couple months made the journey to Bellevue. Jamone Ross worked in the company's Frisco, Texas, call center in technical support for nearly four years. The 31-year-old said workers in this center attempted to unionize out of fear for their jobs when a proposed $39 billion merger between AT&T and T-Mobile surfaced. They continued to work toward union organization after the merger failed due to antitrust concerns until the decision came to close the center last month. Ross said he will continue to be vocal because he wants to see other call centers strive to ensure their survival.
"I feel if we can spark some kind of change here for other call centers, they can still do something," Ross said.
The group was spread throughout several blocks, and a combination of police and private security kept watch. Security led representatives from the labor council and the Communications Workers of America to the primary offices of the company to present a small sample of 100,000 petitions signatures gathered to "keep jobs here." After extensive dialog with security they were not let inside, and the petitions were left to be delivered.
The groups claimed that T-Mobile has taken more than 6,000 jobs overseas to take advantage of cheaper labor. The decision to close the seven call centers will affect 3,300 workers, with the possibility of 1,400 of them moving to other centers. T-Mobile released a statement, saying that the company is still committed to keeping its jobs in the U.S.
"These allegations are wrong," according to the statement. "T-Mobile is proud of its job-creation record and its careful compliance with local incentive programs. Our recent decisions to consolidate call center operations to 17 facilities included an invitation for affected call-center representatives to transfer to our remaining call centers, with relocation benefits, where we are increasing staffing by 1,400 positions to continue fulfilling our customer-service needs."
T-Mobile is the smallest of the four national carriers and is dealing with steep subscriber loses, resulting in fewer calls to its call centers.
In last year’s fourth quarter, T-Mobile lost a net 802,000 subscribers on contract-based plans, which are the most lucrative. It is the only national carrier not offering the iPhone, the popular Apple Inc. device now carried by all three of the company’s larger rivals.
T-Mobile said it will restructure other parts of its business during the second quarter. That includes plans announced previously to modernize its network, add new technology and hire more sales staff. T-Mobile said in February it will improve its wireless data network this year, making it compatible with iPhones and other smartphones.
T-Mobile's decision to consolidate call centers will lead to the closing of facilities in Allentown, Pa.; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Frisco, Texas; Thornton, Colo.; Redmond, Ore.; and Lenexa, Kansas.
From center: Lynne Dodson, Judy Graves, Stan Wylie and Susie McAllister, of the Washington Labor Council and the Communication Workers of America speak with T-Mobile security about dropping off petitions from customers. NAT LEVY, Bellevue Reporter
Protesters lined Southeast 36th Street in Bellevue near the headquarters of T-Mobile during a rally decrying the company's decision to close seven call centers. NAT LEVY, Bellevue Reporter