Senator Bob Casey Promotes Call Center Bill in Allentown

23. August 2012: Allentown, Pennsylvania – the city has known plant shutdowns. Just next door in Bethlehem, Bethlehem Steel shut down the steel plant in 1995, eliminating nearly 1,700 jobs. On June 22, 2010, Allentown lost a T-Mobile call center with 605 employees.

On Monday August 20, Senator Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) held a press conference in Allentown to promote legislation that would make call center offshoring more difficult. Under Casey’s legislation, “The United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act,” call center companies that offshore work would be ineligible for federal grants or loans.

As Senator Casey stated, “Companies that outsource their call centers overseas shouldn’t see the benefits of government grants and loans…. Keeping call center jobs in the Lehigh Valley is good for our workers and our economy, and passing my bill will send a clear signal that outsourcing jobs will not be rewarded.” Click here for a copy of the Senator’s press release. Click here for local TV coverage.

Senator Bob Casey and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced S. 3402 on July 18, 2012. The bill would require the Secretary of Labor to maintain a publicly available list of all employers that relocate a call center overseas and would make those ineligible for Federal grants or guaranteed loans. It would also require companies to disclose the physical location of Customer Service Representatives and permit customers to have their calls re-routed to a U.S. based location. Click here for a copy of the bill.

The press conference was held at the Central Labor Council offices in Allentown. CLC President Greg Potter introduced Casey, and spoke about the costs of offshoring both in human terms and to the community. Also speaking was Barry Lagler, Jr., a former worker in Allentown, who
recounted the effect of the T-Mobile closing: “These are people’s lives. They have been totally disrupted.” While some workers were offered transfers, that option was mostly unrealistic for the vast majority of Allentown workers: “I could have transferred but my roots are here.”

Lagler recounted how T-Mobile managers had shown Allentown workers a PowerPoint presentation that included pictures of workers in the Philippines that had recently been trained. “The only thing missing,” Lagler stated, “was a caption, ‘We have your jobs.’”

Lagler was stunned that T-Mobile denied the offshoring. Even now the company calls the closure of 7 call centers and the displacement of 3,300 workers “not an offshoring issue; it was a customer issue.”

The public statements of T-Mobile on offshoring – contradicted by the Department of Labor – have gotten its parent company Deutsche Telekom into hot water in Germany. Click here for the media scrutiny received by DT in Germany.

“Thank god for CWA,” Lagler continued. He recounted how CWA had petitioned the Department of Labor successfully for Trade Adjustment Assistance for the displaced workers. “Some of these folks had babies. Others bought a house. Now these people have hope for the future.”

For more coverage of Trade Adjustment Assistance and T-Mobile’s offshoring denials, click here and here.

CWA has been a strong supporter of the efforts in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to rein in call center offshoring. Click here for a recent statement.

Polling results suggest a vast majority of American voters want to restrict call center offshoring – click here and here.