April 20th, 2012 by Leonard Klie

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), a labor union representing more than 700,000 workers nationally, including more than 150,000 contact center agents, this week called for the U.S. Labor Department to grant Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to the 3,300 T-Mobile USA customer service representatives at seven U.S. call centers slated for closure in June.

Last month T-Mobile USA, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, announced plans to close call centers in Texas,Florida, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Oregon.

TAA eligibility would make the affected employees eligible for enhanced unemployment benefits, tuition assistance for job retraining, and tax credits for family health insurance, among other benefits.

“The purpose of the TAA program is that workers should not bear the cost of corporate decisions to close U.S. facilities and send that work overseas,” said CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins, in a statement.  “Instead of developing a business model based on quality customer service that customers clearly want, T-Mobile USA is following a low-road strategy that is harming U.S. workers.”

T-Mobile is certainly not the first company to outsource call center work to countries like India and the Philippines. Many companies have done it, often at the expense of American workers.

The filing for a TAA designation comes as support continues to build in Congress for the bi-partisan “U.S. Call Center and Worker Protection Act” (H.R. 3596). That bill would prevent corporations from getting federal loans, grants, or tax subsidies for five years if they move U.S.-based call center jobs overseas.  Further, the bill would require that U.S. consumers be told of the location of the call centers where their calls are routed, and gives them the right to ask for a transfer to a U.S.-based call center.

In already tough economic times, American workers should not face severe economic hardship because their employer chooses to offshore call center work. The bill in Washington is a great step in addressing this issue, and will hopefully make it less attractive for companies to send American call center jobs overseas, but passage of the legislation is still several months away at the very least. The workers slated to lose their jobs in June probably can’t wait that long.

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