CWA President Chris Shelton: Keep Call Center Jobs in the U.S.
An op-ed by CWA President Chris Shelton was featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette urging the passage of national call center legislation that would help curb offshoring of American jobs and protect American consumers:
The offshoring of U.S. call center jobs has skyrocketed in recent years. Companies that are marketing products and services to U.S. residents too often are sending good call center jobs overseas. While America has been rapidly losing call center jobs, the number of offshore call center jobs servicing the U.S. has climbed sharply.
In many communities, the loss of a call center means the loss of a pillar of the local economy. 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. How can U.S. workers compete with overseas operations paying around a dollar an hour and forcing employees to work 12-hour days or longer? We shouldn’t be forced to.
U.S. consumers are put at risk, too. My union, the Communications Workers of America, has produced a new report spotlighting consumer fraud and scams that have cost customers millions of dollars and put their financial information and security at risk.
There is a solution. The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act is bipartisan legislation that will help workers, consumers and communities. As hundreds of call center layoffs have been recently announced at Conduent in Moosic, Pa., Sen. Bob Casey knows how serious this problem is for working families nationwide and for Pennsylvania call center workers and consumers. He’s the lead Senate sponsor of this legislation, and we’re joining with him to get these safeguards passed.
This proposal 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. Unlike a lot that’s coming out of Washington, these commonsense proposals have the support of Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
Taking a Stand for Good Customer Service Jobs
CWA members are taking action this week across the country, calling on Congress to do what it takes to keep good jobs in the U.S.
In more than 60 locations, CWA customer service workers and allies are holding rallies, meeting with members of Congress who are home over recess, and signing petitions in support of the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, bipartisan legislation to keep good jobs in the U.S.
District 7 Vice President Brenda Roberts is leading CWA's customer service program. "CWA members are excited about the mobilization because it enables thousands of us to get directly involved in the fight to keep good jobs in the U.S.," she said. Next steps include delivery of the tens of thousands of signatures to members of Congress and town halls that spotlight the impact of offshoring on workers, families and communities, she said.
The legislation, H.R.1300 and S.515, requires that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they are speaking; offers callers the opportunity to be connected to a U.S.-based center if preferred; and makes U.S. companies who off-shore their call center jobs from the U.S. ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans.
The Senate bill was introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) as original co-sponsors. The House bill was introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-WVA) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX).
Among the highlights:
- Rep. McKinley, a principal sponsor of the House bill, joined CWA members at a news conference in Triadelphia, W Va., calling on Congress to stand up against the offshoring of American call center jobs, which has hurt customer service and harmed U.S. workers and communities.
His Democratic counterpart, Rep. Gene Green is holding a news conference in Houston with members of CWA Local 6222 on Friday, April, 21.
- In Pittsburgh, CWAers rallied outside the Verizon Mega Center, joined by staff from Senator Casey’s office and other supporters.
- So far, CWAers collected more than 26,000 petition signatures at events in 28 states.
CWA recently issued a report that examines how the trend of shipping call center jobs off-shore harms American workers, communities, and consumers, and highlights numerous examples of scams and practices at some overseas call centers that are harmful to the security of U.S. consumers' sensitive information.
At events nationwide, CWAers pushed for legislation to keep good call center jobs in the U.S. From top left: Members of Local 13500, Pittsburgh; Local 6016, Oklahoma City, OK; Rep. Dave McKinley, center, with members of Local 2006, Triadelphia, WVA; Local 6507, Little Rock, AR, and Local 7200, Bloomington, MN.
NABET-CWA members ratified a four-year master agreement covering nearly 3,000 staff and daily hires at ABC Network/Disney. The contract covers workers at ABC Network operations, ABC Sports operations, and the four network-owned television stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
NABET-CWA members at ABC work as broadcast technicians, telecommunications specialists, news writers, producers, desk assistants, publicists, and plant maintenance personnel.
The agreement provides for a 9 percent across-the-board wage increase over the contract term; improvements for daily hire employees including a paid sick leave provision and enhancements to health and retirement benefit plans; improvements for staff that include an increased pension accrual rate and other gains, and anticipated future job opportunities in "new media" for all employees.
Camden County Library
Support staff at the Camden County, N.J., library system, members of CWA Local 1014, rallied last week as part of their fair contract fight.
More than 50 library workers from eight locations rallied at two separate locations, joined by AFSCME members and supporters. CWAers are fighting for a $15 per hour wage as part of a fair contract. Camden County is one of the busiest library systems in the state, and is the top-rated service in the county. Library workers have been hit hard by staff reductions and expanded workloads.
The National Mediation Board (NMB) certified the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) as the sole bargaining representative of the combined Flight Attendant work group at post-merger Alaska Airlines.
"We are so excited to welcome Virgin America Flight Attendants to AFA," said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. "Virgin America Flight Attendants will have their own local council and elected representatives to serve in AFA leadership. Our entire union stands with the Virgin America and Alaska Flight Attendant representatives to ensure they achieve the full benefits of the merger."
All Flight Attendants at the merged airline have the protection of AFA's seniority integration policy. The seniority Flight Attendants bring to the merger is maintained and protected. AFA will also immediately seek an increase to wages for Virgin America Flight Attendants as they currently earn far less than Alaska Flight Attendants.
CWA District 3 Leaders Focus on Union Building
CWA President Shelton with District 3 VP Honeycutt.
At the District 3 meeting in New Orleans, CWA leaders talked about ways to expand the successful political and legislative action program and make CWA STRONG.
CWA President Chris Shelton recognized District 3 as the top CWA district in growing CWA's Political Action Fund last year by exceeding its goals by 149 percent. He applauded District 3’s commitment to bargaining and to CWA's political and legislative work, demonstrated by the more than 3,374 shifts of volunteers, and noted that it is the first CWA district so far to have secured sponsors for legislation to safeguard U.S. call center jobs in every one of its states.
Shelton outlined the CWA STRONG action plan to bring everyone who works and benefits under our contracts into the union as a member, then an engaged member, and finally an activist.
Vice President Richard Honeycutt and assistant to the VP Nick Hawkins are turning this district "into a lean fighting machine," Shelton said, adding, "That, brothers and sisters, is how we change America."
District 3 Vice President Honeycutt spoke about the progress that CWA leaders and members were making across the district, in bargaining, political action and legislative work. He urged leaders to put this energy and commitment to work in their locals.
Speakers included Foster Campbell, a Louisiana Public Service Commissioner and longtime supporter of working families, who called on participants to work to elect government leaders at every level who will work hard on their behalf.
VP Richard Honeycutt recognizes CWA District 3 Staff Representatives.
District 3 leaders are CWA STRONG.
IUE-CWA Local 86004 is CWA STRONG
CWA members aren't letting right-to-work (for less) laws get in their way of making their local CWA STRONG. These laws are intended to weaken workers' bargaining power by trying to restrict a local's resources.
Members of IUE-CWA Local 86004 in Kansas City, Mo., work at GE Aviation Strother Field, where they manufacture airplane and helicopter engines. About 90 percent of the plant’s 650 workers are CWA members, and of the 130 new hires, the membership rate is just about 100 percent.
President Jake Aguinaga said, "The entire Local Executive Board works on the floor every day and is visible and accessible to all the members." A very active local mobilization team can communicate quickly and effectively with the membership at a moment’s notice. Using cell phones and text messaging, members are informed and engaged in everything the local is doing.
Local member Josh Jacobs said that talking to new hires right away and letting them know about the power of being in the local union is key. "Another key to success is persistence – talking to all members about the union, even when you think they might not be interested."
Workers Memorial Day is April 28
Here are some of the events being organized to mark Workers' Memorial Day next week:
- The Economic Policy Institute and the National Employment Law Project will hold a Workers' Memorial Day panel on April 28 starting at 11 AM to look at the importance of strong government enforcement and safety standards to prevent work related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
The event will be live streamed. Click here for more information.
- In San Francisco, members of CWA Locals 9119 and 9415 and other Bay Area unions will hold a forum on how workers are bravely exposing workplace problems at great risk to their own jobs. The panel will feature workers who spoke out at Wells Fargo, SF General Hospital, and other employers.
- In Wheeling, W. Va., union members will observe Workers Memorial Day at noon with a wreath laying ceremony and by reading the names of the 24 West Virginia workers who lost their lives in 2016 because of a workplace hazard.