Pushing working bills: Brown seeks to protect call center workers

In an effort to save Ohio jobs and to protect Ohio consumers, Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown supports proposed legislation which would require companies to notify consumers their calls are being transferred abroad.

“Call center jobs is a growing service sector and one that could provide a middle class family with wages to pay bills and save for college, but many of these jobs have been moved off-shore,” Brown said noting the Communications Workers of Ohio estimates Ohio has lost 2,330 call center jobs between 2008 and 2011. “I am announcing my support of a new bill to keep call center jobs in our communities.

“The United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, which Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and myself introduced last month, would help American workers and consumers, helping consumers by requiring businesses to disclose the location of their customer service representatives so consumers know with whom they are talking to,” the senator said. “We want to know where are steel is from, we want to know where are food is from and we want to know where are clothes are from — we have labels in most of these goods.”

He said it is time Americans know where their calls are going, especially since those calls can include the exchange of personal information.

He voiced his concern since Ohio has at least 198,00 call center jobs and does not want to jeopardize those jobs, too.

The bill also would make companies who outsource jobs to be ineligible for federal grants and loans.

“This bill will also stop giving American tax dollars to big businesses that ship call center jobs overseas,” Brown said. “It also begs the question why should we hand over federal grants or loans to companies that hand over American jobs to other countries? We should reward American workers and American companies that remain loyal to creating jobs in our communities.”

The bill would require the Department of Labor to provide the public with a list of companies that have moved call center jobs overseas and for those companies to remain on that list for three years. The bill also requires the Department of Defense to give preference to U.S. employers that do not appear on the list.

Brown said the legislation is a result of Ohioans becoming frustrated with contacting businesses’ support staff in a foreign country and taught tricks to make them believe they are calling someone in the United States.

“Most Ohioans that have had to call a major company for a service repair or to get an answer about their cable bill have ended up speaking with a worker in a different time zone, on a different continent,” Brown said. “When companies send call center jobs overseas, they don’t just frustrate consumers — they hurt our economy as well. With thousands of Ohioans looking for work, it just doesn’t make sense to ship these jobs overseas.”

Also on Thursday, Brown led 21 senators in penning a letter calling for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, to bring to the floor for a vote the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act, which passed the Senate in 2011 and represents the biggest bipartisan jobs bill passed that year.

Brown is the author of that legislation, which passed the Senate last October by a bipartisan margin of 63-to-35, but has languished in the U.S. House since then. Nearly 260 current members of the U.S. House, including 80 Republicans, voted for similar legislation in 2010.

“As an Ohioan, Speaker Boehner has no doubt heard from businesses in and around West Chester that have faced unfair competition from China — a country that manipulates its currency to give its businesses an unfair advantage over ours,” Brown said. “This is long overdue, especially when a majority of House members supported similar legislation two years ago.

“Our workers can compete with anyone in the world, as long as there is a level playing field,” he said. “Legislation is necessary to fight back against China’s unfair currency manipulation, and it (the bill) has enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate — but the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act has languished in the U.S. House for months. Our workers and businesses can’t wait any longer for action.”

Currency manipulation is an illegal trade practice in which the Chinese government intentionally devalues its own currency against the U.S. dollar. The result is artificially expensive American imports to China, and artificially devalued Chinese imports to the United States.

Brown explained this puts Ohio and American manufacturers at a disadvantage and makes it more difficult for American companies to compete against Chinese companies.