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Call Center Legislation Could Affect Connecticut Businesses

When we think of jobs in Connecticut, the call center industry isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But according to the Communication Workers of America, there are more than 49,000 call center jobs in the state: people answering phones for companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon Wireless, and Cablevision.

Stats from an Offshoring Security reportproduced by the CWA count four million Americans (or four percent of the American workforce) as employed by call centers. The concern that these jobs are being outsourced, or sent overseas for cheaper labor, has led to CWA's "Press One for America" campaign, and proposed bipartisan legislation, "The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act."

The act would: 

  • Require the secretary of labor to maintain a publicly available list of all employers relocating call centers overseas and require disclosure of their physical locations, with penalties for not doing so.
  • Employers that move call centers offshore will be ineligible for federal grants and guaranteed loans. Employers that keep call centers in the U.S. will receive preference in federal contract awards. 
  • Employees overseas will be required to disclose their location when asked and transfer customers who request it to a U.S. based call center. 

Chuck Porcari, spokesperson for Communication Workers of America, joined Where We Live to talk about the legislation. He said that these call center jobs are "good, family-supporting jobs, with benefits, that are being off-shored rapidly."

This is happening in Connecticut, too. In August, Prudential Annuities sent 40 jobs overseas. Porcari said the Shelton company received $12.6 million in taxpayer incentives. Those are benefits they wouldn't have received under this new law. "You shouldn't be able to do this at the expense of the taxpayers," said Porcari. "We've lost over 400,000 call center jobs in the last ten years," he said. "Like manufacturing, these jobs are getting moved to facilities overseas. There has to come a point where the taxpayer-financed flight of jobs has to end. This is the intention of the legislation."

This is not the first time legislation like this has been proposed. Atul Vashistha, CEO of NeoAdvisory, said at CIO.com that he doesn't expect the legislation to go anywhere

"To me it's clear that politicians sponsor such bills to be able to tell voters that they are trying to protect jobs at home. They are not trying to understand or consider the overall economic impact... I wish they would focus energy on job creation legislation."

More reading: 

Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.

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