Let’s just say this is déjà vu all over again. As those of you who are familiar with our coverage of all things related to customer interactions (now spanning over 30 years) are aware, in the past year we have devoted extensive coverage to the attempts in the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would dissuade and penalize companies for shipping jobs overseas.
Thus far, the action has been in the U.S. House of Representatives which less than a month ago decided that now was not the time to bring to a vote Congressman Tim Bishop’s U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act. However, with examples of companies continuing to send their call center operations abroad, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has introduced S.3402, a companion bill to the one that died in the House.
"Companies that outsource their call centers overseas shouldn't see the benefits of government grants and loans," Casey said in a statement. "Keeping call center jobs in Pennsylvania is good for our workers and our economy, and my bill will send a clear signal that outsourcing jobs will not be rewarded."
It should be noted that one of the reasons for the Senator’s interest in keeping this on the front burner is that according to his office, about 200,000 people in Pennsylvania work in the call center industry.
The proposed legislation would ban companies that off shore American call center jobs from receiving federal loans, grants or subsidies for five years. It also requires that a list of companies that send jobs off shore be made available to the public. While the prospects of this legislation moving this year are slim to none, it is important to note that this does not mean it does not have significant support. In fact, the House version (HR 3596) has more than 130 bi-partisan co-sponsors. Plus, this being an election year, where shaking all of the trees for money is important, and galvanizing specific communities to work hard during the election to keep someone aligned with their interests in office is critical, it is not exactly a surprise that this is back on the political radar screen.
Equally unsurprising was the statement from Ron Collins, chief of staff at the Communications Workers of America, a labor union representing about 150,000 call center employees. He stated that, "We commend Senator Casey for standing up for good jobs and U.S. communities. This bill will reduce the incidence of outsourcing and help keep these family supporting jobs in the U.S. and in communities like Allentown, Pa., where T-Mobile USA recently shut down its call center."
It must also be noted that here in the U.S. this subject is a state as well as federal matter of intense interest. Bi-partisan bills have been introduced in Florida, Arizona and New Jersey to name a few, and more are on the way as politicians look for any edge that shows they are in favor of keeping jobs here in these difficult economic times.
The fact that this is one of the few areas where bi-partisanship is apparent demonstrates its criticality. However, the challenge is that because of the high-profile scuffle now over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, if you pardon my political cynicism, this is a great way to get political cover back home, just so long as it never comes up for a vote since it might cause embarrassment during the Fall. It is really too bad. Without getting into the merits of whether the punishment fits the crime — indeed, depending on your perspective whether there is a crime —if nothing else it would be really interesting to see this put to a vote.
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