New legislation introduced in Congress December 7 would prohibit companies that outsource call center jobs overseas from receiving federal grants and loans.
The bill, called the U.S. Call Center and Consumer Protection Act, was proposed by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y) and co-sponsored by Reps. Dave McKinley (R-W.V.), Mike Michaud (D-Maine), and Gene Green (D-Texas). It would require the U.S. Department of Labor to track firms that move call center jobs overseas; the firms would then be ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
The legislation (H.R. 3596) would also require overseas call center employees to disclose their location to U.S. consumers and give customers the right to be transferred to a U.S.-based call center upon request. It would further require companies to notify the U.S. Department of Labor 120 days prior to any proposed moves off-shore and require the list of companies that off-shore call center work to be made available to the public.
"It's common sense that we should not be rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas while millions of qualified Americans are looking for work," Bishop said in a statement. "Taxpayer dollars should only be used to incentivize good corporate citizens who create American jobs."
Rep. McKinley called the proposed legislation "a common sense jobs bill that will protect American workers and consumers." "Our taxpayers should not be financing those who send our jobs overseas," he said in a statement.
The bill also has the full support of the Communications Workers of America, the labor union representing about 700,000 telecommunications workers, including about 150,000 call center employees.
"Americans are fed up with good-paying, family-supporting call center jobs here in the United States being shipped overseas so the 1 percent can make a little extra money," said CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins, in a statement. "This legislation does not prevent them from moving if they want, but it prevents them from gaining access to our tax dollars while they do so."
The bill is also designed to limit the threat of consumer fraud and identity theft at foreign call centers. A new CWA study expected to be formally released next week will spotlight the fact that foreign call centers often lack the type of security measures common in the United States, potentially putting financial, medical, and other sensitive customer information at risk.
"Congressman Bishop’s bill will help to address a serious issue that has bothered most Americans for a long time," said Michael Gendron of Communications Workers of America Local 1108 in Patchogue, N.Y., in a statement. "If you are frustrated by dealing with call centers that are located overseas and having to worry about the security of your personal information, this bill will give you a choice to deal with American workers who must comply with American laws."
According to the CWA, total call center employment has dropped from 5.2 million jobs in 2006 to 4.7 million in 2010, a loss of approximately 500,000 jobs in just four years.