News : McCaskill Advocates New Call Center Rules
September 2, 2011 -- With large spending plans clearly off-limits, President Barack Obama will have to be imaginative to make an impact with his impending jobs speech, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said yesterday.
McCaskill, a first-term Democrat seeking re-election next year, was at MBS Textbook Exchange promoting a simple idea that she said could spur job growth at call centers: require operators to identify their location to customers.
The lingering effect of the 2008-09 financial crisis means a slower economy will persist, McCaskill said. During the 2008 campaign, McCaskill was a vocal supporter of Obama and regularly traveled with him.
She said yesterday that he has not provided her with any insight into what he will propose but that there are practical steps that will spur job growth without costing large sums.
"We need to do the things that will make the most difference for the least amount of money," she said.
The Social Security tax cut set to expire should be extended for a year, she said. Import taxes imposed for unfair trade practices should be enforced, McCaskill said. And long-term employment could be boosted by expanding workforce training programs, especially for management and technical work, she said.
Identifying the location of call centers to customers would give companies using U.S. centers a competitive advantage, McCaskill said. Like many people, she said, she has been frustrated by operators who won’t reveal their locations.
The change, in and of itself, won’t bring back the jobs lost to India, the Philippines and elsewhere, she said. But businesses could turn a regulation into a marketing plus, she said, making it attractive for companies to return jobs lost overseas.
Call center workers overseas are coached in an attempt to make them sound American, McCaskill said. "Why would they be engaging in that behavior if it didn’t matter to them?"
AT&T and T-Mobile are using a promise to bring 5,000 call center jobs back to the United States as a carrot in an effort to overcome antitrust opposition to a merger.
Bob Pugh, CEO of MBS, said McCaskill’s proposal might help spur some jobs. But companies like his need certainty to plan their futures, he said.
He’s urging McCaskill to support a bill that would allow states to impose sales taxes on Internet sales but bar them from trying to recover taxes unpaid for past sales.
Many of the largest Internet sellers have considered their sales exempt from state sales taxes except in states where they have a physical presence.
"We would collect it gladly if they didn’t audit us back to the beginning of time," Pugh said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, September 05, 2011