WASHINGTON, DC — In his State of The Union address and a series of events around the nation, President Barack Obama has noted the damages inflicted by the trend of off-shoring American jobs and has called for companies to reinvest in American workers by focusing on domestic insourcing.
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) commends the President for prioritizing these issues and hopes the recent White House focus on this topic will generate continued attention and support for bi-partisan legislation introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Rep. Dave McKinley (R-WV), the "U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act." This legislation would directly address several of the themes discussed by President Obama, most notably by strengthening American job creation.
President Obama's State of the Union address included remarks noting that we have to "stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America." Earlier in January, President Obama hosted a summit on the topic of insourcing American jobs. In his remarks, the President noted, "So my message to business leaders today is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to the country that made our success possible. And I'm going to do everything in my power to help you do it. We're going to have to seize this moment."
"CWA is seizing the moment by strongly supporting the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act," said CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins, who began his career in a U.S.-based call center. "We will have 700 CWA leaders from around the country on Capitol Hill next week urging Democrats and Republicans alike to add their names to the 17 co-sponsors already supporting the bill. This bill makes it clear that corporations that insist on taking call center jobs away from the United States will not be able to benefit from taxpayer funded grants and loan guarantees, and further requires that consumers be told where their call is being answered from. If the call goes overseas, this bill also gives them the right to insist on being transferred to a U.S.-based call center. It's a common sense jobs bill that will protect American workers and consumers," Collins said.
Call centers are a major economic force in the United States, representing about three percent of the entire U.S. workforce. Yet in recent years, many of the call center jobs that used to provide employment opportunities in the U.S. have been shipped overseas. In fact, according to data from the American Teleservices Association and 2010 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of US customer service/contact center jobs has declined in the last four years by 500,000.
As noted, the bi-partisan call center bill will address many of issues raised by President Obama and help reverse the devastating American job losses witnessed in the industry. The legislation adds accountability and transparency to the off-shoring process and encourage call center jobs to stay in the U.S., while preventing corporations from using taxpayer dollars to pad their bottom line prior to moving overseas. The legislation would not prohibit off-shoring, but would make corporations that send U.S. call center jobs off-shore ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or grants for five years; require a list of companies that off-shore their call center work be catalogued by the U.S. Department of Labor and made available to the public; require foreign based call center employees to disclose their location to U.S. consumers; and transfer that call to a U.S.-based call center if requested by the caller.
In December, a CWA report (pdf) explored the consequences associated with off-shoring call center jobs, demonstrating that the trend has been to the detriment of both U.S. customers and U.S. communities. The CWA report showed that the off-shoring of call center jobs has led to a range of negative effects, including placing consumers' personal information at risk to security breaches and exacerbating economic strains in American communities. The report detailed specific instances of fraud directly related to employees at overseas call centers, the lack of legal safeguards to protect customers' personal information in these countries, the loss of Constitutional protection for consumers' personal data once it leaves U.S. shores, and the recent trend of "sub-outsourcing" former Indian-based call center work to even cheaper foreign labor markets, including places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Philippines.