New Bill Would Crack Down on Outsourcing in Call Centers

Outsourcing: if it’s one thing Working America members hate, it’s when companies ship jobs overseas so they can pay their workers less.

That’s why we’re cheering Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and his new bill H.R. 3596, The United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act. Not only does the bill keep taxpayer-funded loans and grants from going to companies who outsource call center jobs, it would also require those companies to report their outsourcing in advance to the Department of Labor.

While we love incentives for companies to act more responsibly and hire workers here at home, but it’s the reporting requirement that caught our eye. Job Tracker, our online resource to track corporate local corporate abuses, relies on Department of Labor data sets to help inform users of outsourcing, mass firings, and a variety of other labor law violations. This bill would help us help you, the American consumer, support companies that follow the law and treat workers well.

But you don’t think corporate-backed interest groups and their allies in Congress are going to take this lying down, do you? Huffington Post quoted one official saying a “strong lobby team” should be sent to DC to stop the bill’s progress.

In response, Rep. Bishop, a Democrat, has enlisted two Republican Congressmen as co-sponsors: Dave McKinley (R-WV) and Michael Grimm (R-NY). The Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents over 150,000 call center employees, called the bill “an actual, honest-to-God, bipartisan bill focused on U.S. jobs.”

CWA backed up their support of the bill with a report that details the damage done to the U.S. economy by call center outsourcing: “Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home.” The idea that has entered popular culture is that U.S. consumers are routed to a call center in India – but the report exposes how many Indian firms have begun to “sub-outsource” calls to countries with even cheaper labor costs, such as the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The report also talks about companies that took local and state “job creation” incentives but shipped the jobs overseas anyway, essentially billing the taxpayer for the destruction of their own livelihoods.

Remember, this bill doesn’t fine call center companies for shipping jobs to other countries. It just says that your taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be directed toward those companies in the form of guaranteed loans or federal grants. It also would require call center companies to be open about their off-shoring, and have employees disclose their location and give the option of being transferred to a U.S. based employee if requested.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s small. But we urge you to watch your representatives, and see where they come down on this issue. What do they value more – the creation of American jobs? Or perhaps the support of multinational corporations who fill their campaign coffers?

Three cheers to Bishop, Grimm, and McKinley on this particular issue (we’re not fans of Grimm and McKinley’s stalling on jobs, rights at work, and healthcare) and let’s hope their colleagues take the same path. For more information about outsourcing in your area, check out Job Tracker.

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