Lawmakers Offer Bill to Protect Call-Center Jobs

CANFIELD, Ohio – State Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-33rd, Boardman, says a bill he’s introduced in the Ohio Senate places call-center companies on notice should they consider relocating jobs overseas.

“We’re trying to protect these jobs,” Schiavoni said at a news conference held at the union hall of Local 4300 of the Communications Workers of America. “If we’re giving state dollars for these companies to come into Ohio – if they leave — they cannot take their incentives with them.”

The bill, titled the Consumer Protection Call Center Act of 2016, would require call-center companies to give their employees notice of at least 120 days before relocating any jobs overseas or be subject to fines of $10,000 per day, Schiavoni said. It also would compel these companies to repay any incentives they received from the state to locate here.

Plus, those call-center companies that offshore jobs would lose their eligibility for five years for any future state incentives or aid.

“There is some of this happening across Ohio, and we have to be proactive, so that when this happens again, we’re in front of it in Ohio,” he stated.

Schiavoni was joined by state Reps. John Boccieri, D-59 Poland and Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58 Youngstown, along with members of CWA Local 4300 and district representatives.

“What this comes down to is fairness,” Boccieri said. “Fairness for Ohio taxpayers, fairness of Ohio workers, and fairness for what it means for employment here in the Valley and Ohio.”

Boccieri and Lepore-Hagan are co-sponsors of a companion bill in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Call centers employ more than 171,000 across the state, Boccieri said, and some 14,000 have been offshored over the years. “This is a consumer protection bill and a jobs protection bill,” he said. “We’re going to fight hard to make this an issue in this election and elections going forward.”

Downtown Youngstown is in Lepore-Hagan’s district, she noted, and home to a large number of call-center workers. These employees deserve consideration, she said. “We want to just make sure the jobs stay in Ohio. As the ranking member on Commerce and Labor, I know these issues will come through my committee and I will stand firm and make sure we support the jobs that are in our community,” she declared.

The bill would create more transparency in that it requires the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to maintain a list of all call-center companies that move jobs overseas.

“We’d like to keep these jobs around here, and hopefully this de-incentivizes companies who come here and take tax incentives and then leave,” said Rich Schrader, steward for Local 4300. “Everybody knows somebody who has lost a job in this area, and keeping jobs around here is definitely important.”

The AT&T call center on South Avenue in Boardman, for example, employs more than 400 union workers, and Schiavoni said the proposed legislation demonstrates that Ohio is serious about protecting jobs in the call-center industry. Other states are contemplating similar measures.

“Minnesota is very close to passing this bill,” Schiavoni said. “Every state has something that they’re working on, not only with call centers, but other jobs that are shipped overseas. It’s a big issue at a national level and a big issue in Ohio.”

Pictured at the press event: Matt Pavlich and Randy Emery from Local 4330 of the CWA, state Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan and John Boccieri, Rich Schrader from the CwA, and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.