By ALAN OLSEN
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
TRIADELPHIA, W.Va. — Local union workers at the AT&T call center at The Highlands met with U.S. Rep. David McKinley Thursday morning, as he discussed legislation to preserve American call center jobs.
McKinley, R-W.Va., met with about 10 representatives from the Communication Workers of America Local 2006, employed with the AT&T call center, which has recently experienced staffing concerns. McKinley spoke of House Bill 1300, the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act — a bipartisan bill which would require call centers to disclose their location to those they call and disqualify U.S. companies that move call center jobs overseas from certain grants, loans and tax credits.
McKinley said the bill has support from both sides of the aisle, garnering 87 co-sponsors — 47 Republicans and 40 Democrats — since it was introduced.
“We’ve been working on this bill since 2013. We’ve gotten 87 co-sponsors. That’s not a bad number, and we can go even further with it. … If we can get a bill that this would be appropriate to attach it to, I think we can get it,” McKinley said.
Mike Hamilton, McKinley’s chief of staff, added companies shouldn’t be rewarded for moving jobs overseas.
McKinley said he was remaining optimistic yet realistic with the bill’s future. While bills must go through an extensive and rigorous approval process, a more common tactic to get legislation passed is to insert it as an amendment to another bill once it’s reached the House floor.
McKinley also pointed out what he considers the root of the problem: Lower-cost products often take precedence over all other things, leading to imported goods and online shopping becoming more prevalent in consumer culture.
“When you go to Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club, and look at what’s on the shelf, how much of it’s made in America? Very little,” McKinley said. “We’ve got a culture problem that’s developed here in America over the last 40 years or so, where they just want to buy cheap. … These publicly traded companies are saying, ‘We want a return on investment because our stockholders want us to maximize profits, so we’re going to find a cheaper way to get it.’”
CWA member Kaitlyn Foster said she just wants to be secure in going to work and making a living to support herself and her child.
“Outsourcing is a big problem,” Foster said. “With the current administration, things are looking different, but it’s hard to set a standard when every time in the past they’ve pushed a different standard. I don’t have a lot of trust in the big government to take care of us, so we have to take care of ourselves.”
Chapter president Ann Vogler said recent layoffs, combined with a hiring freeze, is weighing on employee’s minds.
“We’ve lost about 30 people in the last six months,” Vogler said. “The company currently has no plans to hire, which is why CWA is 100-percent supportive of this bill that Congressman McKinley is talking about. It’s going to keep jobs in America, and hopefully bring more to our local area.”
Vogler said the current goal of CWA is to secure a contract with the call center, as their last one expired in February.
HB 1300 would require call centers of sufficient size give 120 days notice to the Department of Labor before moving business offshore. Those companies which relocate are subject to a five-year period on a list, during which they would be ineligible for federal grants or loans. Federal and state agencies also would be required to give preference to unlisted companies when awarding civilian or defense-related contracts.
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