April 27th, 2012

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Congressmen Taking Action to Promote Outsourcing to Americans

Rep. Tim Bishop

Representative Tim Bishop (center) is a leading voice for bringing outsourced jobs back to Americans, which could result in more employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Also pictured here are Rep. Keith Ellison (left) and Timothy Walz (right).

House Representative Tim Bishop (D-NY) isn’t waiting around for his fellow legislators to deliberate on the U.S. Call Center and Consumer Protection Act (HR 3596) he introduced earlier this year. The Long Island congressman has gone on the offensive to stop call-center jobs from being moved overseas, and has already scored a victory for the cause in the Philippines.

Bishop, along with fellow legislator Walter Jones (R-NC), submitted a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) last Friday, expressing concern over the negative impact its Job Enabling Proficiency Program (JEEP) is having on employment opportunities for Americans. InformationWeek editor-at-large Paul McDougall has been out ahead of this story, going all the way back to 2010, and he had USAID deputy assistant Barbara Feinstein’s letter of response the day it came out, saying the organization is suspending the program and establishing a “high-level taskforce to review these matters.”

The JEEP program has noble intentions, to be sure. Feinstein’s letter describes it as a program that “enables these youth to make productive contributions to society.” And while the focus of Bishop and Jones’ efforts are on the 500,000 call-center jobs currently being outsourced by U.S. companies like AT&T, Expedia, and J.P. Morgan Chase, taxpayer money is funding training in plenty of other business sectors, writes McDougall:

A JEEP document published by USAID notes that the program ‘is classroom based, and focuses on the specialized English skills required by employers in areas such as: nursing and allied healthcare; maritime services; travel and tourism services; business process outsourcing (BPO); and other areas of international employment.’

That last item, business-process outsourcing, is one of those catch-all terms for any number of operational tasks. In the context of the type of jobs being done offshore, however, it typically pertains to occupations found in segments of the supply chain. The very kind of assembly, sorting, and packing that can provide employment for people with disabilities if those same jobs were given to contract service organizations. What’s more, when you consider the hidden costs of outsourcing, businesses are actually spending more money to deliver goods and services by going overseas instead of giving those jobs to people right here at home.

Can’t help but notice, by the way, that this latest effort by Congress to keep jobs in America is being done by lawmakers from both sides of the aisles. It evokes Leah Katz-Hernandez’s premise that employing people with disabilities is a unifying issue for our political system, because what Congressmen Davis and Jones are doing will have a direct impact on opportunities for people with disabilities to make life matter through work that lets them live more independently.


Image by Rep. Keith Ellison, used under its Creative Commons license.

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