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The Bill That Could Bring Call Center Jobs Back Home Again

March 5, 2017
By Joe Maniscalco

Offshoring is killing American call center jobs.

New York, NY - More than a hundred thousand U.S. call center jobs outsourced to the Philippines, India and Latin America could be coming home if new legislation reintroduced in Congress this week is codified into law. 

The “U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act” seeks to force U.S. companies to reveal the location of their overseas call centers, and give customers the opportunity to be switched back to a stateside call center upon demand. The same measure would also make offshoring U.S. companies ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-backed loans for a period of five years. 

“We believe that now is the right time [for this bill to pass], because the public is very much focused on the off-shoring of good U.S. jobs,” Shane Larson, legislative director, Communication Workers of America [CWA], said during a Friday afternoon conference call with reporters. 

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. has watched more than 200,000 call center jobs disappear over the last decade. Many of them have gone to the Philippines, a country that already has over 1 million call center workers and expects to add another 100,000 jobs annually by 2021. 

Earlier this week, 79 information technology workers at the University of California, San Francisco were given pink slips after their jobs were handed over to cheaper employees in India. 

“U.S. taxes should be used to create jobs in the U.S., not in other countries," said Kurt Ho, a systems administrator who was required to train his replacement as a condition of his severance.

Last year, nearly 40,00 Verizon workers refusing to accept wholesale outsourcing of American jobs went on strike for 49 days. As a result, over 80-percent of calls into Verizon help centers must be fielded by stateside employees. In Pennsylvania, the victory has resulted in an increase in 170 jobs in Pittsburgh alone, and more than 250 statewide. 

Non-union Verizon Wireless workers weren’t so fortunate, however, as the telecom giant proceeded to ship more of their jobs overseas. 

Jennifer Szpara, a Verizon worker for almost 20 years, and a member of CWA Local 13500 in Steel City, called the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act” “common sense” legislation.”

“It would help keep call center jobs here in the U.S., and it would give customers who are connected to an overseas call center the right to be transferred  back to the U.S.,” Szpara said this week. “And it would mean that companies that do send good jobs overseas wouldn’t be rewarded with taxpayer funded grants and loans.”

About 4 million Americans work in the call center industry. Continued offshoring has the dual effect of stealing lots of jAmerican jobs while also degrading those that remain. 

“Workers here lose their ability to negotiate for better wages and benefits out of fear that their job will be next,” Texas Congressman Gene Green (D), original sponsor of the “U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act,” said. 

Introduction of the “U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act” coincides with a CWA report that finds offshoring is subjecting vulnerable American callers to the schemes of predatory overseas scammers. 

“American consumers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars to identity and data theft and scams in recent years that originated in overseas call centers,” Congressman Green said. “Many of these scams targeted elderly Americans who are bullied into providing personal and financial information over the phone out of fear and lack of transparency.”

Verizon is by no means the only telecom giant obsessed with offshoring. T-Mobile and Sprint love the practice, too. So do the big banks. 

A few years ago, Well Fargo shuttered a slew of stateside call centers before opening a massive call center in the Philippines. 

In contrast, Larson says the airline industry has done a good job of trying to bring work back to the U.S. 

U.S. Airways, sent customer service jobs overseas before merging with American Airlines in 2015. It was a decision executives regretted. 

“From their own admission it was a total failure from a customer relations perspective,” Larson said. “And so, they willingly brought back that work to the United States.”

Recently, several U.S. senators have gotten together and called on the Trump administration to issue an executive order demanding that no federal contractors be awarded to any company that offshores their call center jobs.

The “U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act” appeared to gain some traction the last time it was introduced, but was ultimately “caught up in partisan rankling,” according to Larson.

 

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