National Council of EEOC Locals, No. 216, AFGE, AFL-CIO
Office of the President
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Gabrielle Martin
September 15, 2004 (303) 866-1337
EEOC COMMISSIONERS TO VOTE SEPTEMBER 17, 2004 ON OUTSOURCING CIVIL RIGHTS TO A PRIVATIZED CALL CENTER
DENVER - After months of ignoring months of controversy about creating a privatized call center, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will vote on whether to enter into a multimillion-dollar contract to outsource the agency’s contacts with the public. The National Council of EEOC Locals, No. 216, AFGE/AFL-CIO, the employee’s union, called on the Commission to conduct the vote in a public meeting. With three days formal notice, the Chair scheduled the meeting for this Friday September 17, 2004. Chair Dominguez has ignored Union concerns that attendance will be hindered, because the hastily called meeting does not meet the notice standards of the Sunshine Act and conflicts with the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashana. In a letter, Gabrielle Martin, President of the National Council, stated, “The Agency’s refusal to reschedule will confirm that the call center decision is preordained and the rushed hearing is merely a sham.”
This is not the first time that EEOC’s top administration has appeared politically tone deaf during its privatization crusade. At EEOC’s March 25, 2004, oversight hearing, the Republican and Democratic subcommittee leaders rebuked Chair Dominguez for soliciting contractor bids before receiving Congressional approval. Since that time Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Senator Ted Kennedy sponsored letters to House and Senator appropriators, urging them to deny funds for EEOC’s restructuring requests. On July 20, 2004, twenty civil rights and public interest organizations, signed onto a letter warning that: “callers will receive inaccurate information or will be subjected to an unnecessary layer of aggravation, when the operator cannot answer the question and transfers the call to the EEOC.”
Council President Martin states the Union has a special stake in whether this call center goes forward, because the EEOC will have to rob from Peter to pay Paul. “Three hundred employees have left and not been replaced because the agency is diverting its funds to pay for this expensive boondoggle. EEOC employees provide accurate guidance to the public in their own backyards. We don’t need scripts, because this is our career. We can help the public, and do it better and cheaper by just replacing the staff we’ve lost.”
Other Federal agency call center experiments have met with disastrous results. In 2003, the Bureau of Citizenship and Information Services instituted a national call center. A survey conducted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association found an 82% user dissatisfaction rate. Of the survey participants 62% state they were not given useful assistance, this included misinformation that could adversely affect people’s lives. A July 2004 report released by GAO found that Medicare call centers only gave accurate answers to test calls 4% of the time. Martin points out that in the case of public calls to the EEOC a person’s federally protected civil rights will be compromised if he or she receives misinformation. “When Congress established the EEOC through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the idea was for Commission employees, not telemarketers, to enforce the law and provide advice and guidance to the public.”
Regardless of the vote, the EEOC will still have to get the approval of House and Senate appropriators before moving forward. The House has already considered the EEOC budget request, including strict language that funds for a call center “shall only be available subject to the submission of a spending plan to the Committee.” The Senate has not yet voted on the spending bill which includes appropriations for the EEOC.
The EEOC Meeting is scheduled for September 17, 2004 at 10:00 a.m. in the Clarence Mitchell Jr. Conference Room on the 9th Floor of the EEOC Office Building, 1801 L Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20507.