Improving Call Center Jobs a Top Priority for CWA Customer Service Activists

CWA Pres. Larry Cohen and Executive Vice Pres. Annie Hill join local union leaders in CWA’s Customer Service Activist Network in discussing ways to improve customer service jobs and help workers at non-union call centers get bargaining rights.At a meeting of CWA's new Customer Service Activist Network, local union leaders across CWA sectors came together to talk about the critical problems facing customer service reps: unreasonable sales quotas, monitoring, health problems tied to stress, repetitive motion and headsets, and a general lack of respect.

The working group outlined its mission:

  • We will improve the quality of work life by developing a bargaining and legislative agenda that resolves issues and concerns unique to customer service professionals.
  • We will educate our local and national leaders on the need to work together to identify solutions to the concerns specific to customer service professionals.
  • CWA is the customer service union. We will organize to build power and leverage for all.

CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill said, "the more we can grow the customer service part of our union, the more power and leverage we will have to address the issues that customer service representatives face," she said.

Valerie Packer is a member of the customer service activist network and executive vice president of Local 7621 representing Qwest workers in Idaho. Even if employers only care about the bottom line, there's good reason to treat call center workers as valued members of the team because we're the first contact for customers, she said.

CWA represents about 150,000 customer service representatives working in the private and public sector in telecommunications, government, airlines and the newspaper industry. CWA's customer service activists will meet Oct. 21-23 in San Diego at CWA's Customer Service Professionals Conference to continue to work through the tough issues facing reps. Stay tuned for more conference details. 

Tom Juravich, a professor at the University of Massachusetts and labor activist, spoke to the committee by phone. His latest book, “At the Altar of the Bottom Line,” interviews CWA Local 1400 members at the Verizon center in Andover, Mass., and spotlights their concerns, including that priority given to sales quotas means that workers can’t always provide the service or help that customers want. Read an excerpt here.