New Legislation in House and Senate Addresses Consumer and Worker Call Center Offshoring Issues

The “U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act,” Jointly Introduced in Senate and House, Follows Bipartisan Momentum in State Legislatures on State Call Center Bills
Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Washington, D.C. – The Communications Workers of America (CWA) today praised the introduction of new anti-offshoring call center legislation jointly introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), in the U.S. Senate and the bipartisan duo of Reps. David McKinley (R-W. Va.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) in the House. The “U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act” (S.1792 and H.R. 3219) would ensure that taxpayer dollars are not rewarding companies that offshore their customer service work and would give consumers the power to decide where to have their calls handled.

The new federal bill builds on the momentum generated by states introducing and moving forward legislation addressing issues around call center offshoring during the 2019 legislative session in both Democratic and Republican-controlled state legislatures. Thus far in 2019, 24 state legislatures have introduced bills on call center offshoring, up from 18 in 2018. Both legislative chambers in Alabama unanimously passed a bill to stop taxpayer dollars going to companies that offshore call center jobs and the Governor signed the bill into law. Colorado, Maine, and Nevada also passed bills in 2019, joining Louisiana’s passage of a state bill in 2018. An additional four states have passed a state call center bill in one legislative chamber in 2019 while five others have held legislative committee hearings and votes on call center bills (See here for a visual overview of state call center momentum in 2019).

According to Shane Larson, Director of Legislation, Politics and International Affairs at the Communications Workers of America (CWA), “As we’ve seen in states across the country, there is growing and bipartisan momentum to address offshoring in the call center industry and to stand up to companies intent on shipping good jobs overseas without accountability. We thank Senator Casey, Representatives McKinley and Pocan, and the other original co-sponsors for their leadership and we look forward to working with them to build on the bipartisan momentum on display in state legislatures across the country.”

Call centers are a major economic presence in the United States, with approximately 3.6 million Americans employed by the industry, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the potential for stable, family-supporting careers for call center workers is threatened by widespread outsourcing and offshoring and U.S. companies’ increasing reliance on the rapidly growing business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, which competes in a global race to the bottom to offer low-cost customer support and back-office functions. The growth in outsourced customer service is correlated with a 3% decline in real wages for U.S. customer service representatives over the past decade and the constant threat of offshoring hangs over U.S. workers who have made careers for themselves in the customer service industry.

Key Provisions of the “U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act” – (S.1792 and H.R. 3219)

  • Disclose Call Center Location to U.S. Consumers: The legislation would require the relocated overseas call center agent to disclose their name and physical location of their operation. For example, a customer may hear, “Hello, my name is Jane from Manila.”
  • Right to Transfer: U.S. consumers would have the right to request that the call be transferred to a customer service agent who is physically located in the U.S.
  • Create a “Bad Actor” List of U.S. Companies That Make a Practice of Sending U.S. Jobs Overseas: The legislation would require creation of a publicly available list, maintained by the Department of Labor, of all employers that have relocated all or a significant portion of their customer service work overseas. These companies would be ineligible for federal grants or guaranteed loans. Preference would be given to U.S. employers that do not appear on the list when awarding civilian or defense-related contracts. Employers that relocate a call center would remain on the list for up to 5 years after each instance of relocating a call center.
  • List Removal: If a “bad actor” relocates an offshore call center to the U.S. -- brings jobs back -- they will be removed from the bad actor list.
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