Mr. Serrano: Mr. Chairman, I would like to engage the Chairman of the
Subcommittee in a colloquy on a proposal by the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission to establish a National Contact Center; hopefully, we can address the concerns of those Members who have expressed misgivings about this proposal.
Recently, we observed the 40th Anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the years since the enactment of that landmark legislation, the EEOC has had a pivotal role in fighting discrimination in the workplace and ensuring that all Americans are treated fairly. However, despite the important role of the EEOC, it has experienced the same budget constraints as most other agencies in this bill.
The EEOC sought the assistance of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) in finding ways to streamline its organizational structure and use its personnel to continue meeting its mission in the 21st Century.
Among the NAPA recommendations was a proposal to create a National Contact Center, using contract employees. The EEOC has proposed to enter into a contract to establish a call center as a two-year pilot project, at an estimated cost of $2 million. Of this amount, $1 million is available through a reprogramming of current year funding. This bill would provide $1 million in FY 2005.
NAPA made a number of additional streamlining proposals, including possible office closures, which might result in personnel reductions. Although the Administration requested funding for a “repositioning” of EEOC resources, the bill does not provide any of the requested increased funding for repositioning because a spending plan has not been submitted to the Committee.
Many EEOC employees throughout the country have heard of these proposals and are worried about losing their jobs, as a result of office closures or outsourcing of the call center.
The EEOC’s reorganization proposals, including specifically the National Contact Center, were discussed in detail at a Subcommittee hearing earlier this year. At that time, both Chairman Wolf and I expressed concerns about the possible cost of this proposal. Accordingly, we advised the Chair Cari Dominguez that the Subcommittee expected her to come back to us prior to entry into a contract to establish the call center. Ms. Dominguez made a commitment to us that she would do so. Both the Chair and her staff have continued to reiterate that commitment.
Similarly, Ms. Dominguez has repeatedly reassured this Subcommittee that EEOC is not planning to close any of its existing offices or cut jobs of current employees. This bill provides full funding for the EEOC’s current base staffing level.
So I would ask the Chairman of the Subcommittee, is it his understanding that expenditure of any funding in 2005 for the proposed National Contact Center is contingent on the EEOC notifying this Subcommittee, consistent with the long-standing requirement of Section 605, prior to taking any formal action to obligate the funding?
Mr. Wolf: I thank the gentleman from New York for raising this issue because it is a concern for Members on my side of the aisle and for many others, and also for constituents of mine. I want to assure the Members and the gentleman that the Subcommittee is aware of these issues and will do everything we can to protect the rights of federal employees. Ms. Dominguez has promised us, and I went back and looked in the hearing record the other day, that the Commission has no intention of closing offices or cutting jobs of current employees and that she will come to the Subcommittee before spending any money on the Call Center or any other reorganization proposal. So I completely agree.
Mr. Serrano: Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time. I thank the chairman, as always, for his support.