With the new year comes a new law. On Dec. 17, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law Chapter 520 of 2014, an amendment to the existing Call Center Bill, which was signed by then-Gov. David Paterson back in 2010.
The initial intent of the Call Center Bill was to require that gas and utility companies doing business in New York State notify the Public Service Commission and provide reasons for their intent to move if they plan on relocating their call center operations out of the regions in which they serve.
Union call centers are some of the most efficient in the country. They provide a middle-class base for local economies and a fair wage and benefit package. But they also can be costly. Many companies in this country, and sadly on this Island, have call centers in the developing world. You can pay someone in India or the Philippines pennies on the dollar to what you pay U.S. workers. With greed being a motivator, many U.S. companies tell Uncle Sam to take a hike and bring their commerce overseas, while competent and qualified stateside employees claim unemployment. It's called outsourcing or offshoring, and depending on where you got your MBA or who you voted for in these past midterm elections, it's a touchy subject.
So the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Utility Labor Council of New York State, a 15,000-member organization of 18 IBEW utility unions statewide, lobbied hard to pass a law to make it even harder for their employers to move good community-sustaining jobs.
IBEW Local 1049 on Long Island recently experienced a loophole in the original Call Center Bill, when 100 good-paying positions were moved from the Customer Assistance Center in Melville to Brooklyn. Employer National Grid did in fact notify the PSC of its intent, but there was no public hearing. Local 1049 collected 15,000 signatures in a petition against the move, but no one was listening. Basically the PSC just rubberstamped the move, and Long Island once again got the shaft.
So Chapter 520 of 2014 adds teeth to the Call Center Bill because now when National Grid or PSEG wants to move good jobs off Long Island and send them to Brooklyn, India or wherever, Chapter 520 requires that a public hearing take place.
Chapter 520 will not prevent corporate greed. It just gives the little guy another chance to be heard.
LIBN columnist Kris LaGrange is the head of UCOMM Communications, a labor-focused communications firm.