Rally April 24 in Seattle’s Westlake Park to support call center workers
By MICHAEL SCHENDEL and CARISSA HAHN
VANCOUVER, Wash. (April 20, 2018) — Last August, Wells Fargo announced the layoffs of more than 70 local workers at their Vancouver call center, giving these employees 60 days to pack their bags and find a new job, while blaming the layoffs on changing consumer behavior and new digital tools. The layoffs were part of a recent trend of Wells Fargo layoffs of nearly 700 American jobs at call centers in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and here in Washington.
Despite the excuse about digital tools, Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan later admitted before a U.S. Senate committee that the domestic layoffs were related to the company’s expansion in the Philippines, where the Wells Fargo’s presence has grown from fewer than 100 call center employees in 2011 to more than 4,000 employees today with plans to soon grow to 7,000 workers servicing the American marketplace.
The real story behind the Wells Fargo layoffs is one of corporate greed and offshoring, offering another stark reminder why we need new efforts that put American workers first, add new levels of accountability to the offshoring process, and ensure that our taxpayer dollars are not rewarding companies who are actively eliminating good American jobs. In Seattle, we’re holding a rally April 24 to coincide with Wells Fargo’s latest shareholder meeting and to draw attention to the company’s continued anti-worker actions and to underscore why state and federal call center legislation are sorely needed.
TAKE A STAND! — On Tuesday, April 24, the Committee for Better Banking, the Communications Workers of America, Washington Fair Trade Coalition, and other partners are Standing Up and Fighting Back! Rally in solidarity with Wells Fargo workers Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Seattle’s Westlake Park, 401 Pine St. (See Facebook event page for more info.) Wells Fargo is taking the $3.7 billion from the GOP tax scam, closing down call centers and shipping jobs offshore. There they can pay pennies on the dollar in wages and are not subject to protections of consumers’ sensitive personal information that U.S.-based call centers must comply with. (Download CWA’s leaflet with more details.)
Call centers are an underappreciated economic force in the United States, with more than 90,000 workers employed by the call center and customer service industry in Washington alone, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But tens of thousands of call center workers across the country have lost their jobs in recent years as major corporations have offshored these jobs. This trend has harmed American working families and communities, while hurting customer service and consumer security.
Unfortunately, the offshoring trend threatens to get worse as President Trump and the Republicans’ massive tax bill rewards and could incentivize even more corporate offshoring. As Stephen Shay, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and former Treasury Department international tax expert, told The Washington Post, “This bill is potentially more dangerous than our current system. It creates a real incentive to shift real activity offshore.” The Congressional Budget Office recently agreed, noting that the GOP tax bill would “increase corporations’ incentive” to offshore. And to add insult to injury, Wells Fargo stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the tax bill, positioned to save $3.7 billion next year alone, according to one estimate.
It’s time for Wells Fargo to rehire the American call center workers it laid off in Vancouver and across the country, while putting an end to the company’s offshoring practices. And it’s time that we started sticking up for American workers and communities by supporting new legislative efforts to rein in egregious offshoring practices and excuses.
In more than 15 states across America, CWA locals have worked with their state legislatures to introduce call center bills. Here in Washington state, with the help of Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell) and others, we were able to get a bill introduced in the whirlwind short session. The conversation has begun in Olympia and we are getting ready for next year’s session.
The Washington Call Center Jobs Act would create a list of companies that move call centers out of the state and make these offshoring companies ineligible for certain tax preferences and grants and loans for five years. HB 2844 also would require state agency contracts for call center services be performed entirely within the state of Washington.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act (S.515 and H.R. 1300) would require that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they are speaking; offer callers the opportunity to be connected to a U.S.-based center if preferred; and make U.S. companies that offshore their call center jobs from the U.S. ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans.
Wells Fargo should stop putting greed ahead of American workers, customers, and communities and started giving straight answers about their offshoring practices. And elected officials should keep the promises they’ve made to working people and start supporting efforts, such as call center legislation, to stand up against the damaging offshoring trend and its effects on real people’s lives.
Michael Schendel is the president of CWA Local 37083. Carissa Hahn is the Unit Vice President at CWA Local 37083 and an employee at AT&T Mobility in Bothell.