North Carolina Workers Seek To Form Union To Fight Unfair Conditions At Sitel

Workers at a Sitel call center in Asheville, N.C., are attempting to organize a union under the banner of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to fight unfair conditions. The workers, mostly female, complained that they were being unfairly disciplined for bathroom breaks when the facility doesn't have enough restrooms to accommodate the size of the workforce, with one bathroom serving nearly 200 women. Women waiting in line too long to use the bathroom were being punished, including a system where the cumulative punishments harmed their chances of obtaining promotions and pay raises.

Sitel has a history of being staunchly anti-union:

Their company handbook informs workers that they are employed “at will,” that Sitel is a “union-free” company and “desires to stay that way.” With their “union-free” language, Sitel basically treats unions the way other companies treat drug use. The handbook also contains a media clause that all workers sign and has been used to discipline workers who discuss company affairs on Facebook. When the IBEW helped file a complaint against Sitel with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the company became hostile against those organizing.

Sitel's problems are part of a larger problem in the call center industry, which some refer to as having sweatshop-like conditions.

Sitel, though, has gone far enough, they might actually get in trouble:

The IBEW has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board contending that Sitel, which operates call centers in several states and 27 countries, was threatening the jobs of employees engaged in concerted action protected by law.

Workers in the center, where the hourly pay scale—between $8 and $9 per hour—is low, even for the right-to-work South, also express concerns about inconsistent company policies and rampant favoritism.


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