There’s a way to protect consumers and keep good call center jobs in the U.S.

The offshoring of U.S. call center jobs has climbed sharply in recent years. Companies marketing products and services to U.S. residents too often are sending good call center jobs overseas. While the U.S. has been swiftly losing call center jobs, the amount of off-shore call center jobs servicing the U.S. has skyrocketed.

The loss of a call center means the loss of a pillar of the local economy for many communities.  Lost jobs mean lower tax revenues to fund important public services. And when companies offshore U.S. jobs, it puts more pressure on workers at home to accept lower wages and benefits, and poorer working conditions. U.S. workers shouldn’t have to compete with overseas operations paying around a dollar an hour and forcing employees to work 12-hour days, or longer.  

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U.S. consumers are put at risk too. My union has produced a report on consumer fraud and scams that have cost customers millions of dollars and put their financial information and security at risk.

There is a solution. Last week, Congressional Democrats unveiled policy details of their “Better Deal” agenda, including support for crucial legislation, the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, which would help rein in the practice of offshoring call center jobs from America.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Congress should build upon the ABLE Act, giving more Americans with disabilities access to financial tools MORE (Pa.), requires that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they’re speaking; be transferred to a U.S. based call center on request, and make U.S. companies that offshore call center jobs ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans. The bipartisan House bill was introduced by Reps. David McKinleyDavid Bennett McKinleyOvernight Energy: Koch backs bill opposing carbon taxes | Lawmakers look to Interior budget to block offshore drilling | EPA defends FOIA process Koch backs House measure opposing carbon taxes This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (R-W.Va.) and Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenLatina Leaders to Watch 2018 Overnight Health Care: Big win at Supreme Court for anti-abortion centers | HHS chief grilled on migrant children | Boom time for ObamaCare insurers? The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Washington grapples with civility, protests in charged political times MORE (D-Texas).

These efforts on Capitol Hill echo what we are seeing throughout the country: growing support for efforts to crack down on call center offshoring, often across lines of party and ideology. For example, the New York State Assembly passed the bipartisan “Save New York Call Center Jobs Act” by an overwhelming 126-18 margin in late June. Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Alabama legislators are making a push to pass similar legislation.

Offshoring isn’t popular with workers or consumers. Last fall, Xerox announced it would expand call center operations in the Philippines – hiring 800 workers there – while simultaneously shutting down American call centers and laying off 950 U.S. workers. In October, Florida-based Sykes Enterprises announced plans to open a new call center in the Philippines employing more than 2,000 workers and shut down its call center in Eugene, Ore., warning workers to “keep quiet” about the closure.

In October, details emerged of a massive fraud scheme targeting Americans that operated out of India-based call centers. Victims – more than 15,000 customers in the U.S. – lost hundreds of millions of dollars, the U.S. Department of Justice found. In fact, Indian call center scams are such a problem that the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is now setting up two police stations to handle cases of call center and online fraud exclusively.

In May 2014, the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau launched an investigation into a 168-day data breach that occurred at an AT&T call center in Mexico. During this period, three call center employees were paid by third parties to obtain customer information — specifically, names and at least the last four digits of customers’ Social Security numbers — that could be used to steal information stored on customers’ phones.

The three call center employees accessed more than 68,000 accounts without customer authorization and passed the information on to third parties. As part of the same investigation, AT&T admitted that approximately 40 employees at the Colombian and Filipino facilities had accessed customer names, telephone numbers, and at least the last four digits of customer Social Security numbers to obtain unlock codes for AT&T mobile phones.

U.S. consumers and workers deserve to know that their financial information is secure and that they won’t be replaced by someone earning $1 an hour or less. We need the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act. 

Shelton is president of the Communications Workers of America, representing 700,000 women and men in telecommunications, media, airlines, public service and manufacturing. CWA represents more call center workers than any other union. 


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.