Call Center Offshoring and Outsourcing
Our union is under attack as large corporations increasingly outsource and offshore union call center jobs. Customer service representatives face a global race to the bottom in which companies vigorously compete with each other by locating their customer service operations wherever they can find the lowest wages and fewest worker protections.
AT&T has eliminated 12,000 call center jobs since 2011, sending many to overseas vendors and Verizon continues to use a global network of vendors. However, we have seen that when CWA mobilizes, we can protect existing jobs and bring work back into our call centers. CWA members at Verizon captured the hearts of people across the world when they mobilized to prevent closure of centers and brought 1,300 jobs back following their historic strike in 2016. At AT&T, CWA members fought back against greedy corporate demands and as a result, recently gained additional call center positions through bargaining in the Southwest.
CWA recognizes and commends employers like American Airlines that have committed to keep the vast majority of their customer service work in the U.S. and at union call centers.
The network of global call center vendors depends on weak labor laws and low wages. In the Philippines, more than one million people work in the so-called “business process outsourcing” sector, often earning less than $2 per hour. In a recent survey, 50 percent of those workers report that their wages are inadequate to meet basic needs. Workers who speak out and seek to organize face severe retaliation, firing, and sometimes blacklisting. CWA allied with workers and their unions in the Philippines during the Verizon strike and in the Dominican Republic as part of the AT&T Mobility contract campaign, powerfully asserting our mutual interest in the face of corporate exploitation across the globe.
Many low-wage call center vendors are right here in the United States. Global call center giant Teleperformance employs 33,000 people in the U.S., one of its largest markets. Workers face intense stress and it is no surprise that these centers experience very high turnover. These are not family-supporting jobs with a future.
The trend among corporations to save money by using low-wage vendors to provide customer service is short-sighted. As we have seen from privacy breaches and high rates of customer dissatisfaction, companies take serious risks when they fail to invest in good jobs for their customer service workforce.
While the situation is challenging, our union also has new opportunities in this sector. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the “customer service representative” occupation is a fast growing job, increasing by more than 20 percent over the past 10 years. Even while jobs are leaving the U.S., companies clearly see the value of a U.S.-based workforce for the vital role of customer interaction.
Resolved: CWA will share information among our leadership and bargaining teams about strategies to strengthen existing job protections and prevent our employers from shifting an increasing share of customer service work to low-wage vendors.
Resolved: CWA will continue to organize in the call center sector when it is strategic and builds power.
Resolved: CWA will actively seek to engage and mobilize our call center membership for job protection, improved standards, and collective power as union activists, and the union will support the Customer Service Committee to lead this effort.
Resolved: CWA will seek to limit the offshoring of call center jobs through legislation at the federal and state level that incentivizes corporations to maintain U.S.-based jobs, including support for the United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act of 2017 currently before Congress.
Resolved: CWA will engage in international solidarity activities to support efforts by our sisters and brothers in call centers around the world who are seeking to organize and lift standards, particularly those with whom we have built relationships in the Philippines, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.