Capote: Bring Call Center Jobs Home

Offshoring call center jobs devastates the economy, CWA Local 3122 Executive Vice President Hector Capote wrote in a Miami Herald letter to the editor.

Here's what Capote, who also represents District 3 on the CWA National Civil Rights and Equity Committee, said:

The U.S. call-center industry is an underappreciated economic engine — one that has been devastated by offshoring. The industry represents approximately 3 percent of our overall workforce, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. However, offshoring is largely responsible for more than 500,000 industry job losses between 2006 and 2010.

Closer to home, T-Mobile closed a Fort Lauderdale-based call center earlier this year, eliminating more than 500 jobs in what amounted to Florida's second-largest layoff of 2012. While T-Mobile shuttered the call center, it expanded call-center operations in the Philippines and Honduras. Unfortunately, T-Mobile isn't alone in sending jobs overseas. This trend depresses our economic recovery and hits particularly hard in areas struggling to rebound economically. This trend also looms over 386,000 Florida call-center workers still employed in the industry.

Companies say that offshoring maintains shareholder value, and that cheaper operations mean more money to invest in the United States, creating jobs in the process. However, companies such as AT&T and U.S. Airways repudiate the value claim, having brought back customer-service jobs in recent years, while maintaining value to their shareholders.

While the political world is just starting to pay attention to this issue, some lawmakers have already developed legislation to strengthen the domestic call-center industry. In Florida earlier this year, the state Senate unanimously passed legislation requiring all call-center service contracts with Florida valued at $35,000 or more to be staffed by agents in the United States. Unfortunately, the Florida House hasn't advanced the bill.

In the U.S. House, the bipartisan U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act would bring some jobs back home and provide consumers with more rights and accountability, including being told the location of the center with which they are speaking. The legislation would ensure that companies engaged in offshoring jobs would be ineligible for certain federal grants. However, the bill hasn't been considered for discussion on the floor of the House.

Unlike some issues that emerge in today's political news cycle, the focus on shipping these jobs overseas is neither manufactured nor inconsequential. Let's hope we continue to focus on the underappreciated importance of the call-center industry in Florida and nationwide.