Two Democratic Senators this week are pushing a bill they introduced last month aimed at keeping call center jobs in the U.S. The bill would require the federal government to give contract award preference to companies that do not offshore call center work, create a list of those that do ship jobs to other countries, and prevent such companies from receiving federal loans and grants.

U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) this week separately discussed Senate Bill 3402, titled “The United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act,” introduced by Casey in July. Brown is currently the sole co-sponsor of the bill.

Casey pushed the bill in a speech in Allentown, Pa. Monday. “Companies that outsource their call centers overseas shouldn’t see the benefits of government grants and loans,” said Casey. “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.”

Brown highlighted the bill at an event in Cleveland on Tuesday. “This bill will also stop giving American tax dollars to big businesses that ship call center jobs overseas. Why should we hand over federal grants or loans to companies that hand over American jobs to other countries?” said Brown. “We should reward American workers and American companies that remain loyal to creating jobs in our communities.”

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Require companies to disclose to callers when their calls are transferred abroad;

  • Make businesses that move call center jobs overseas ineligible for federal grants or loans;

  • Direct the Department of Labor to make a public list of such companies (employers would remain on list for three years after each relocation); and

  • Require agencies, including Department of Defense, to give preference to U.S. employers that do not appear on the list.

While Brown and Casey are currently the only sponsors of the Senate bill, there is a companion bill in the U.S. House with more than 100 co-sponsors, at least six of whom are Republicans. That bill, H.R. 3596, was introduced late last year with nearly identical language. It is currently in committee.

The topic of overseas outsourcing has always been a hot topic in the ARM industry. Many debt collection agencies use offshore resources in their business, and many others are vehemently opposed.

The issue ignited last month in a long discussion thread in a popular ARM industry LinkedIn group. The back-and-forth between group members on the polarizing topic illustrates what many business leaders in the U.S. feel on both sides of the issue.

One of those involved in the discussion, MRS BPO Co-CEO Jeff Freedman, told that his experience with offshoring revealed a much more nuanced reality than “shipping jobs overseas.”

“By taking extremely low unit yield work and placing it off-shore, I was able to take a portfolio that was losing money and make it profitable,” said Freedman.  “In our case, this is work that my US staff never wanted to work anyway since they were not making bonus money on it.”

Freedman noted that by sending those accounts overseas, the same client increased its placements with MRS leading to an increase in U.S.-based collection staff.

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