CapTel Workers Union interviewed Tamara, a current CapTel worker and one of the founding members of the organizing committee.
CWU: If you could change one thing at CapTel with a magic wand, what would it be? Why?
If I was going to change one thing at CapTel I would put the people in the front office on phones for a minimum of four hours during peak times every week. They are salaried, they are supposed to be on the clock 365 24/7, and as things stand they just don’t get it. They don’t understand what they put us through. They write draconian policies and treat us like we’re dirt and nothing but numbers. It is pretty ridiculous and really insulting and adds to the lack of compassion and dignity that a job really should have.
CWU: Do you have a CapTel horror story?
I think the worst thing that ever happened to me at CapTel was I called for an end of shift CTO and it was at a point where there were literally no agents available but there was a gaggle of supervisors sitting a few feet behind me, like five of them, just talking about their weekend plans and they just completely and utterly ignored me. I ended up having to stay on the call and I missed my ride home on account of it.
CWU: Why do you believe CapTel needs a union?
CapTel needs a union in no small part because there’s such a huge disconnect between the policy makers and the policy keepers and somebody has got to put the people who write these policies back on their toes and ideally switch the balance of power. The admin staff (and when I am talking about admin I am talking about HR and accounting and things of that nature) they have no idea what the job really entails. They should be held to the same standards that we are instead of overlording us like irresponsible gods.
A few months ago CapTel Workers Union demanded a company-wide raise in a march on the boss. We told the company that we would give them time to consider it but that we wanted an answer to be given in the next monthly team meeting. We argued that this decision would affect everyone in the workplace and that our coworkers deserve to hear if they are getting a raise or CapTel’s explanation for why they don’t believe their employees deserve an easily affordable wage increase. Instead, CapTel called a single union member into a secret meeting to tell her that they believe their wages are “competitive.” We decided that if CapTel would not have open and honest communication with our coworkers that we would tell them ourselves. We decided to demonstrate with a picket.
We gathered in the plaza outside of the Blue (or the 310W, as it is being rebranded following the multi-million dollar building update that seems to have improved everything except the elevators). As the time of the picket approached our numbers steadily grew.
More than seventy workers gathered and we distributed T-shirts and picket signs made by union members. We began chanting and marching through the plaza using some of the classic union chants as well as one written by a CapTel Workers Union member specifically for this event : “We are the voice, we are the power / We all demand 15 an hour!”
Shortly after we had begun, police arrived and spoke with our designated police liaison. When asked if somebody had complained about us the police stated that CapTel admin had. However, despite what CapTel may wish, it is not illegal to protest low wages and police let us be.
Workers came out on their breaks to check out the picket, taking pamphlets and asking for CWU shirts which we happily gave to them. Some even dropped what they were doing to come march in the picket line with us. Drivers that were passing by beeped their horns in support and one woman rolled down her car window and yelled that CapTel “screwed her over” while she worked there and she was happy to see us demonstrating.
Three picketers had planned speeches for this event and after hearing them speak other workers grabbed the megaphone and gave impromptu speeches, sharing their CapTel horror stories and their need for a living wage and a workplace that listens to its workers.
The picket was an incredibly empowering and overwhelmingly positive experience. It was amazing to see so many CapTel workers come out to stand up for themselves and their coworkers and to demonstrate their willingness to fight to improve their workplace. Workers shared their contact information with us and asked how they could become further involved.
CapTel Workers Union is going to continue to organize, demonstrate, and fight for living wages. We will win.