Anti-offshoring bill scores 77 U.S. House co-sponsors

Call center bill gaining traction, though no public hearing has been scheduled yet

WASHINGTON - A bill designed to discourage U.S. companies from setting up offshore call centers is gaining bipartisan support in the U.S. House.

The U.S. Call Center and Consumer Protection Act (HR 3596), spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.), and David McKinley (R-W.V.), is designed to discouraged call centers from setting up any overseas operations.

The bill would require that the U.S. Department of Labor list employers who relocate call centers overseas, and that workers in the centers disclose their locations to callers who ask. If passed, the legislation would also require that companies provide 120 notice when relocating a call center from the U.S. to an overseas location.

Firms that relocate call centers overseas would also become ineligible for federal loans or loan guarantees for five years under the proposal.

The legislation, introduced in early December with a handful of sponsors, now has 77 co-sponsors, including five Republicans.

"We're continuing outreach to collect co-sponsors, to bolster our case that the bill has broad bipartisan support and should receive a hearing," said Oliver Longwell, a spokesman for Bishop.

If a hearing is held on this bill, it will likely be before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, of which McKinley is a member.

There is no magic number of co-sponsors needed to trigger a hearing, but Longwell said they hope to continue adding supporters.

The Philippine government, concerned about how the proposed legislation would impact its large call center industry, is lobbying lawmakers to reject the bill.

The Philippine government has posted photos and reports about its meetings with U.S. Reps. Peter King (R -N.Y), and Joe Pitts (R-Penn).

The Communications Workers of America, which is pushing for passage of this legislation, estimates that about 4 million people are employed in the call center industry or about 3% of the U.S. workforce.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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