Unions to Trump: Pick up your pen to end offshoring of jobs

A month-long caravan through the Midwest US ended in Washington DC on September 19 with a call for President Trump and Congress to take action to stop the offshoring of US jobs.

The caravan, called the Midwest Pickup Tour, began in Indianapolis, Indiana and stopped at seven other cities in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to hold rallies.

It was organized by the Communication Workers of America (CWA), Good Jobs Nation, and Our Revolution.

At the rallies, those in the caravan had a message for President Trump: pick up your pen and use your legal authority to sign an executive order that bans the awarding of federal contracts to companies that offshore US jobs.

The rallies also urged Congress to pass legislation such as the US Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act to protect US jobs from offshoring.

At the final rally in Washington DC, CWA President Chris Shelton said that Trump could and should end the practice of offshoring US jobs.

“It’s time that wealthy corporations stopped sending jobs overseas and abandoning our communities,” said Shelton. “It’s time that elected officials keep their promises. President Trump can sign an executive order today that stops telecom companies and other companies that send good jobs overseas from getting federal contracts. He could have done that seven months ago. Instead, major US companies continue to get taxpayer-funded federal contracts and send our jobs overseas.”

A recent report by Good Jobs Nations and Public Citizen shows that large federal contractors such as General Electric and United Technologies have been awarded billions of dollars in federal contracts while sending more than 50,000 jobs abroad.

“The Trump Administration continues to reward–not punish–US companies that offshore US jobs,” states the report.

Authors of the report compared information from a Department of Labor database and a database of US contracts with private vendors and found that the federal government has awarded $176 billion worth of contracts to companies that offshore jobs.

The report also said 41 percent of the top 100 federal contractors had offshored 58,913 jobs.

The top ten offshoring private contractors are General Electric, United Technologies, Honeywell, Hewlett Packard, General Motors, Siemens, Dell, Ford, Textron, and IBM.

Peter Knowlton, president of United Electrical Workers (UE), was especially critical of GE for offshoring good-paying manufacturing jobs.

“GE has been awarded billions of dollars in federal contracts, (but) it continues to pursue a strategy of destroying unions and driving down wages to improve profits and shareholder value.”

UE has been in a battle with GE over the company’s plans to move hundreds of good-paying jobs out of its Erie, Pennsylvania factory.

Matt McCracken, UE Local 506 executive board member in Erie, said that when he started working for GE, GE’s Erie plant employed 15,000 workers.

Those jobs paid “good livable wage jobs, that gave your family some hope of a better future,” said McCracken.

But since then, GE has moved profitable division after profitable division out of the plant.

“All those jobs were moved away by big business for an extra nickel in profit, all aided and abetted by politicians like Donald Trump,” said McCracken

Knowlton said that the president should go one step further to protect good-paying manufacturing jobs.

“He needs to condition federal contracts on the unfettered freedom to organize and join a union, to enable workers to secure better pay for themselves, their families, and their community,” said Knowlton.

Shelton said that Congress also has a responsibility to protect US jobs from offshoring.

Telecommunication companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have closed call centers all over the US and shipped those jobs abroad.

Those companies in 2016 received $897 million in federal contracts.

Shipping call center jobs abroad has affected 18,000 call center workers, their families, and the communities where they live.

Shelton said that the US Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, introduced by Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, would protect workers from offshoring.

It requires “that US callers be told the location of the call center to which they are speaking; offer callers the opportunity to be connected to a US-based center if preferred; and make US companies who offshore their call center jobs from the US ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans,” said Shelton.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and four other US senators sent President Trump a letter urging him to pick up a pen and sign the executive order.

“We need to send a very loud and very clear message to corporate America: the era of outsourcing is over,” stated the letter to Trump. “Instead of offshoring jobs, the time has come for you to start bringing good-paying jobs back to the United States of America.”

“If you are serious about ending offshoring and helping the American worker, you will issue an executive order ending government contracts for companies that offshore American jobs,” concluded the letter to the president.

 

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Tentative agreement with AT&T creates good-paying union jobs

A new tentative agreement between the Communication Workers of America District 6 (CWA) and AT&T creates 3000 new good-paying union jobs.

The tentative agreement covers 20,000 AT&T union workers in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Most of the 3000 new union jobs had previously been outsourced to other countries; others had been outsourced to US contractors who pay their workers less than union wages and benefits.

Union members must still ratify the tentative agreement. The union will hold a town hall teleconference on March 9 to provide details about the agreement to members.

A summary of the agreement is available on the CWA District 6 website.

The date of the ratification vote has yet to be scheduled.

In addition to creating 3000 new jobs, the new agreement raises pay by 10.75 percent over the next four years. Pay increases by 3 percent in 2017, 2.5 percent in 2018, 3 percent in 2019, and 2.25 percent in 2020.

Pay increases are offset somewhat by increased worker health care costs. According to the union, take home pay will increase despite the higher health care costs.

The tentative agreement also includes for the first time two weeks of paid leave for parents to bond with a new born or adopted child. Mothers will continue to receive six weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child.

The 3000 new jobs are largely call center jobs that had been outsourced abroad.

Bringing these jobs back home bucks a trend. For years now, companies have been moving call center jobs abroad in order to reduce labor costs.

Outsourcing call center work hurts workers who lose their jobs and many others.

According to a report on call center offshoring published by CWA,

As US companies offshore and outsource call center jobs, communities lose. In many communities, the loss of a call center means the loss of a pillar of the local economy. In many cases, because of the intense pressure from cheaper, less regulated foreign operators, when companies export US jobs, they also exert downward pressure on wages and working conditions at home.

In hopes of reversing the offshoring trend in the call center industry, CWA is supporting the US Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, which was introduced into both the US House of Representatives and Senate on March 2.

“This call center legislation is just common sense,” said Jennifer Szpara, a CWA member who works for Verizon. “It would help keep good call center jobs here in the US. It would give customers who are connected to an overseas call center the right to be transferred back to the US. And it would mean that companies that do send good jobs overseas wouldn’t be rewarded with taxpayer-funded grants and loans. It’s a win for customers, workers, our communities, and our employer.”