A pair of Youngstown-area lawmakers secured an audience before the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee for a first hearing of a bill meant to curb the offshoring of call center jobs.
House Bill 245, titled the Consumer Protection Call Center Act, prevents any employer that relocates call center jobs to a foreign country from being eligible for state grants, loans, tax benefits or any other economic incentive for five years, Rep. John Boccieri, D-Poland, told committee members.
“Call center jobs are some of the most easily outsourced positions in the country,” he said. “Ohio currently has about 171,000 customer service call center jobs, which is, unfortunately, close to 14,000 jobs less than what we had in 2006.
“Workers in this industry have fallen victim to big companies looking to increase their profit margins by replacing hardworking Ohioans with cheap foreign labor.”
In such instances, Boccieri said, the state should not be bankrolling the companies that commit the practice.
“I believe the strong disincentive of relinquishing a company’s eligibility for state resources and contracts will go a long way to deter companies from outsourcing our call center industry,” he said.
HB 245 would require an employer intending to relocate a call center or qualifying facilities or operating units within a call center from Ohio to a foreign country to notify the director of Job and Family Services at least 120 days before relocating.
Presumably, the notice would allow local Job and Family Services offices to prepare for the looming work shortage for the soon-to-be-displaced workers.
Analysis of the bill and sponsor testimony, however, focused on a business’ failure to properly notify the department.
In such a circumstance, the JFS director must inform the attorney general, who would file a lawsuit against the employer in the court of common pleas for the county in which the employer’s business is located, the Ohio Legislative Service Commission wrote in its analysis.
The court may assess a civil penalty of no more than $10,000 against the employer for each day the employer failed to provide the notice.
An employer that demonstrates just cause for the failure may receive a reduced penalty from the court, the bill detailed.
HB 245 also would require the JFS Director to compile a list of employers that have relocated a call center or one or more qualifying facilities or operating units within a call center from Ohio to a foreign country during the preceding six months on a six-month basis.
“The reasons for the exodus are painfully familiar to those of us who represent communities decimated by unfair foreign competition: weak environmental, labor, and consumer protection laws and, of course, low wages,” Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said. “The average Filipino call center worker earns $4,932 each year, a small fraction of the $33,110 earned by U.S. workers.
“These huge disparities make it easy to understand why companies so many companies are turning their backs on American workers.”
She cited examples that included three of the largest banks in the country, a tech company and wireless phone service provider.
“We simply can’t afford to stand idly by as these companies and others ship hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs overseas,” the lawmaker continued. “And it’s certainly folly for us to finance their exit with taxpayer-funded incentives that could and should be used to attract and retain companies that are loyal to Ohio and America.”
Another provision of the bill would require state agencies to ensure that all call center and customer service work performed for the agency is performed entirely within the Buckeye State.
Every individual employed by a contractor to perform call center or customer service work for the state must perform the work in Ohio within two years of the bill’s enactment, the commission’s analysis detailed.
Under the bill, “state agency” means every organized body, office, or agency established by the laws of the state for the exercise of any function of state government.
Fifteen fellow House members have signed on as cosponsors of HB 245, which had not been scheduled for a second hearing as of publication.