Communications Workers Launch Anti-Offshoring Offensive

The Communications Workers are launching a summer-long offensive to convince Congress to move against corporate off-shoring of U.S. jobs, especially call center jobs.

In a mass conference call with activists on July 9, union President Chris Shelton urged them to lobby lawmakers – and to get other union members to do so – for two pieces of legislation.

Shelton wants unionists to text “no offshoring” to the phone link 69866, which would go to Congress. He also wants them to recruit five colleagues each to do the same thing. And unionists should sign CWA’s on-line anti-offshoring petition.

And then on August 21, the union will sponsor a National Day of Action on the issue, tackling lawmakers at home during the congressional recess, and calling in to their offices – all to push against offshoring and for two pieces of legislation to cramp it.

One would order firms – such as airlines, stores, banks and big distributors like Amazon – to order their call center responders to tell customers where they are physically located, and give customers the option of demanding and getting their call transferred to a U.S.-based center. That bill has been kicking around prior GOP-run Congresses, unsuccessfully.

The other, which the union is drafting in conjunction with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, would repeal a huge tax break that encourages firms to offshore U.S. jobs. The break was in the GOP-passed 2017 $1.2 trillion tax cut for big businesses and the rich.

That tax break particularly rubs CWA the wrong way, since one of the nation’s biggest telecoms, AT&T – which is unionized with CWA except for its call centers – announced call center moves to Mexico just around the time solons OKd the tax cut.  That cost thousands of U.S. workers jobs, especially in rural areas with few alternatives.

“We are under attack by Wall Street and corporations and their political puppets – destroying our jobs, destroying communities and destroying our lives,” Shelton said.

“We need to stop this offshoring of good union jobs and of all jobs,” he declared. “We’ve heard a lot of promises from politicians” that they would do so, he added. “But once they get elected, they only make the same situation worse.”


“That shouldn’t be a surprise. They take campaign contributions from the corporations,” such as AT&T and Wells Fargo Bank, who offshore their call centers.

Firms offshore jobs strictly to feed “corporate greed,” added retired Steelworkers Local 1999 President Chuck Jones, who now campaigns against moving U.S. jobs to Mexico – after workers at Carrier, whom his Indianapolis-based local represented, were left high and dry despite then President-elect Donald Trump’s trumpeted promise that he’d save their jobs. Destination? Mexico.

Brown, who has campaigned against offshoring for years, is the exception to the political rule Shelton promulgated, and he joined the anti-offshoring crusade again in the conference call.

Offshoring call centers is part of the corporate model, Brown explained. That model sees firms force workers to pack up their machines “in Cleveland or Toledo.” Companies ship the machinery to Mexico and reassemble it. There, low-paid Mexican workers make the same products “and sell them back to us. And President Trump’s tax cut gave firms a 50% coupon to do so.”

So companies are using that tax benefit to move call centers, too. The “new NAFTA” Trump just negotiated, but hasn’t yet sent to Congress for enabling legislation, won’t help. “It would mean more of those jobs go to Mexico,” Brown said. Labor, right now, opposes the “new NAFTA.”

The three-way U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement – its formal name – is currently in limbo. House Democrats are negotiating with Trump’s trade rep to write tough worker rights into the pact itself, not just the enabling legislation. Until that happens, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says, the trade pact’s enabling law won’t come up. Trump has yet to send the law to Congress.