US, Filipino call center workers meet in Manila, demonstrate global solidarity between unions

A delegation of AT&T call center workers who are members of the CWA union met with leaders from the Unified Employees of Alorica (UEA) in Manila in a show of solidarity. The meeting took place amidst concerns about job cuts at AT&T, ongoing contract negotiations between CWA District 3 and AT&T in the Southeastern US, and rampant workers’ rights violations in the Philippines by Alorica, a California-based call center partner of AT&T.

“We came to investigate where AT&T is sending its calls. We knew a lot were going to the Philippines. What we’ve found is that AT&T is preying on workers here. They’re getting paid less than $2/hr and don’t have basic rights,” said Natalie Santiago, Executive Vice President of CWA Local 3122 in Miami, Florida. Santiago is part of a delegation of CWA workers and union leaders who traveled to the Philippines this week. “We are here to expose AT&T’s exploitation of workers globally and say that human rights should not be bought and sold. If AT&T and Alorica would respect workers’ rights, wages here would go up and AT&T would have to stop slashing US jobs.”

Despite promises of job growth by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in the lead up to the passage of the Tax and Jobs Act of 2017, and strong earnings by the company since, AT&T continues to cut US jobs, devastating workers and upending lives. Nationwide, AT&T has eliminated 27,828 jobs since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, cutting 4,500 jobs just in Q2 of 2019. Meanwhile, the company continues to offshore jobs and rely on overseas contractors like Alorica for many of its call centers.

AT&T workers in the Southeastern US are seeking a fair and just contract with AT&T that includes quality healthcare coverage, higher wages, job security and investment in local communities. At midnight last Friday, 20,000 workers in the Southeast went on strike due to AT&T's failure to bargain in good faith. AT&T call center workers in the Philippines are monitoring call volumes in case AT&T attempts to send calls that would have been handled by striking workers to their centers.

“We are here to support the fight of our fellow AT&T workers in the US,” said Sarah Prestoza, President of the Unified Employees of Alorica. “Like employees in the US, call centers workers here in the Philippines also have to fight for job security, our livelihoods and our rights. AT&T workers across the globe face the same many of the same issues, which is why we are in this fight together.”

In the Philippines, AT&T has done nothing to prevent violations of its Human Rights policy in the face of severe union-busting and other rights violations by Alorica. The situation has become so extreme in the Philippines that the International Labor Organization (ILO) plans to send a high-level mission in September to investigate violations of trade union rights in the country, including the killing of union leaders.

CWA District 7 Vice President and chair of CWA’s Customer Service program Brenda Roberts (third from right) led a delegation of CWA members who work at AT&T to Manila to learn more about conditions at AT&T contractor Alorica. They met with Unified Employees of Alorica President Sarah Prestoza (center) and Alorica workers and discussed their shared concerns and ways they could work together to fight corporate greed.

Members of the BPO Industry Employees’ Network (BIEN), a network of business process outsourcing employees in the Philippines which is allied with the Unified Employees of Alorica, show their support for striking CWA members at AT&T Southeast.

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American, Filipino AT&T call center workers meet in Manila, demonstrate global solidarity between unions (CWA, Aug. 26, 2019)