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In many ways call centers are the sweatshops of the modern era. Workers in one Asheville, North Carolina call center are trying to organize; however, company officials at Sitel, which runs the call center, are making it difficult for workers to join a union.

Meetings at Sitel normally consist of teams or rows of employees who had a work relationship that at the minimum consisted of knowing and being familiar with one another based on seating arrangements. Group bonding is a well employed dynamic at Sitel and all new hires attend orientation together and are then seated near each other for training purposes. But now, I'm told, workers are being called to meetings that are not consistent with normal procedures:

There was no introduction of employees to one another.  One employee prefaced her comments by saying "You can all guess that I am anti-union."

Another employee stated "We have very good benefits here.” she went on to describe an anecdotal event where she claimed that her medical problems were overwhelming. This employee said that between Medicare and Sitel's benefits, she did not have to pay much out of pocket. The supervisor then asked the room "You all do know that Sitel pays a portion of your medical bills, don't you?"

I just want to point out that this employee seems oblivious to the fact that Sitel's benefits are not that good, as Medicare is required to cover what Sitel's benefits do not cover. What would this employee have done had she not had access to Medicare? Sitel's benefits evidently would not have covered her medical expenses.

My sources stated that before this meeting there was an alleged whisper campaign that if a union moved in the site would be closed. In the meeting:

The supervisor in the meeting made sure that when an employee spoke the words "[Sitel] would close down," she would state, "I never said that.” However, what she would say was, "[I]f there was a strike we wouldn’t have enough people on the phone to meet service levels and we could lose accounts." And, "[I]f we were forced to raise wages we could not remain competitive in the market and would not be able to win any new accounts to service."

Site closing is strongly implied.

In my first post about the issues at Sitel, the source article stated that there was only one bathroom for 150–200 women. A Sitel worker explains that the real issue is not that there is only one bathroom:

“[T]here is more than one restroom [in the building] for women. The issue is that a number of women work on that end of the building and it is about 150-200 feet to the restroom.  [A number of] women are physically challenged and [are unable to] walk that far. You only get a few minutes to [use the restroom] anyway or the “floor walkers" will actually come looking for you and tell you to get back on the phone. There are a few major "central" computers where every action taken by every employee is digitally recorded – I am told all manner of bells and whistles go off automatically should any individual exceed the allotted time for breaks, hold time, talk time or computer work in "after call" time.”

According to John Murphy, the IBEW Region 2 Organizing Coordinator, the issue at Sitel is one of human rights and dignity—anti-union forces at the company have warned employees that just visiting the website could mean that they have joined the IBEW. is a site that only provides information to Sitel workers who want to organize.

Sitel employees in North Carolina have a long road to unionization; however, contrary to popular belief, even though North Carolina is a “right to work” state the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act) still applies:

Under the NLRA, you have the right to:
  • Organize a union to negotiate with your employer concerning your wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Form, join or assist a union.
  • Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract with your employer setting your wages,benefits, hours, and other working conditions.
  • Discuss your wages and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with your co-workers or a union.
  • Take action with one or more co-workers to improve your working conditions by, among other means, raising work-related complaints directly with your employer or with a government agency, and seeking help from a union.
  • Strike and picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or the picketing.
  • Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.


Under the NLRA, it is illegal for your employer to:
  • Prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms.
  • Question you about your union support or activities in a manner that discourages you from engaging in that activity.
  • Fire, demote, or transfer you, or reduce your hours or change your shift, or otherwise take adverse action against you, or threaten to take any of these actions, because you join or support a union, or because you engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, or because you choose not to engage in any such activity.
  • Threaten to close your workplace if workers choose a union to represent them.
  • Promise or grant promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to discourage or encourage union support.
  • Prohibit you from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts, and pins in the workplace except under special circumstances.
  • Spy on or videotape peaceful union activities and gatherings or pretend to do so.

I want to revisit what John Murphy said: This is about human rights and dignity.

No one should have to put up with being chased down for having a long bathroom break and everyone should have the right to organize without interference.

6:45 PM PT:

An update from someone who knows NC labor law:

No break or lunch is required under law except if a minor under the age of 17 works over 6 1/2 hours, he or she must record 1/2 hour lunch break by law.

OSHA rules are circumvented because there is another restroom albeit a football field's length away.

Also: at Sitel your personal metrics dictate raises and advancement.


Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:25 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Isn't it also illegal (17+ / 0-)

    to limit your employees' bathroom breaks?

    27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-07 (originally), liberal-leaning independent

    by TDDVandy on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:38:56 PM PST

    •  I am not a labor lawyer... (27+ / 0-)

      ...and I did not sleep at a Holiday Inn last night; however, if you have been out of work for two years and there is nothing else are going to put up with a lot of crap - legal or not.

      "Republicans only care about the rich" - My late Father (-8.25, -7.85)

      by Mark E Andersen on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:40:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, and I too am not a labor lawyer, but (4+ / 0-)

      I'm not sure there's a right to any bathroom breaks at all.

      •  I think it's a state thing. (14+ / 0-)

        Many states have laws that say you have to have a certain number of 15min breaks in an 8 hour shift and a certain minimum lunch break (usually a half hour).

        How you use that break time is up to you, and as long as you're doing a good job a halfway decent manager isn't going to object to you using the bathroom when you need to go no matter how many times.  

        That being said, not everyone does a good job and it's usually those individuals that don't that tend to try and exploit as much breaktime as they can.  

        On the other side, not every manager is halfway decent.  And it's usually the shitty callcenters (the ones that clock every call and push people to shorter, more frequent calls and strict adherence to metrics) that hire the less than halfway decent managers.

        I started a blog. It's still a work in progress but if you're interested, come on by. Dawn of Ambivalence

        by DawnG on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:00:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The state says gotta give 'em breaks, (11+ / 0-)

          and you're right, a decent manager will let you go if you need to, but the metrics force even decent managers to do indecent things.
          Everyone's performance being judged by the performance of those on the phones so the metrics are the true boss.
          Which is really a nifty way of putting the onus of maximizing output  on the individual worker bee.

          Occupy your mind. - No better friend, no worse enemy.

          by Thousandwatts on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:15:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  In 1979 I worked for a hospital during (9+ / 0-)

            the 3:00pm - 11:00pm shift.  There was no lunch (dinner) break.  I took one anyway.  I also quit after 6 weeks.  I called the Labor Commission to find out what the law was and was told that NM had no requirement for a lunch break. Really?  However, in the case of Sitel, it seems to me that they come under federal law as they are located in several states, and therefore deal in interstate commerce.  Any company that works interstate is required to follow federal law.  Federal law requires a 15 minute break for every 4 hours, 20 minute break for 5 or 6 hours, and a lunch break during an 8 hour shift.  Unfortunately, low information employees, even during better economic times are afraid to challenge an employer for fear of losing their jobs.  This is why unions are so important.

            Corporations aren't people; they're Republicans. Rev. Al Sharpton

            by HappyinNM on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 07:43:04 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Both State and Federal Laws (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Federal Laws do not require that employers provide breaks or meals. Currently there are only 19 states that have laws that spell out required breaks and meal time. However Federal law does specify that is a company offers employee breaks if the break is 20 minutes or less the employee must be paid for the break time.

          By the way I oversaw the setting up of a payroll system for a National mall based chain and I can tell you that Puerto Rico's requirements kick butt. They are way better then anything else in the nation, with tons of National Holidays and even mandatory vacation and sick time for part-time workers. As to the 50 states, as I recall, Massachusetts and California had the most defined requirements for break and meal times.

        •  ya know.... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mike08, Abelia, JVolvo

          Having worked at several different call centers, it's been my experience that there are some decent ones and some really really horrible ones.
          Again, some middle-manager 'supervisors' are good decent people concerned with their employees,  however they are far out numbered by miserable little tyrants who are for the most part pretty petty people who, having been given a modicam of 'power' by equally incompetent managers, turn into modern day Simon Legrees.
          Yes, bathroom breaks are timed.  
          No personal days are allowed.
          Though we are given 'sick time', any time you dare call in sick, it's a mark against you toward being written up.
          We are micro-managed within a hair-breadth of ludicrosity.
          Our breaks occur at different times each day, and even though the breaks are random, we are severely judged on adherence, two months during any years 'out-of-adherence' is cause for warnings, leading to firing.
          No excuse for being late (and that means even by a minute), even if there's a snowstorm/blizzard, hurricane or traffic jam.  A woman received a message that her house was on fire, left work immediately to be at home, and was given a major 'occurrence'.
          There is major favoritism towards some, but god help you when you see it and mention it.
          The turnover rate is outrageous.
          It is simply not a way to run a business, it shows the business has nothing but contempt for its' employees and cares nothing about the high attrition rate and only for 'net/net, the bottomline and faster/more/never enough'.  Not very sustaining to the majority of workers, and incidentally, to the company either.  
          This bad behavior towards employees didn't work in the past and it's not working now.

          I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

          by Lilyvt on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 04:53:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  There are OSHA regulations (9+ / 0-)

        requiring employers to provide adequate bathroom facilities and preventing employers from imposing "unreasonable restrictions" on bathroom use.

        So, technically no "law" governing it, per se, just that they have to have a bathroom and there can't be unreasonable restrictions.

        27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-07 (originally), liberal-leaning independent

        by TDDVandy on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:04:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  New Jersey has laws (5+ / 0-)

        mandating break periods  per hours worked. All employers are required to post these regulations, along with OSHA information,  where all employees can read them, usually in a break room or next to the time clock. A former employer of mine got hit with a bunch of safety violations carrying hefty fines, & tacked on were fines for not having up-to-date regulations on display.

        "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

        by DJ Rix on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 07:18:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  My Union represents Public Service workers in NC (5+ / 0-)

        We have some great people in that state. In NC, our Union has no collective bargaining rights for members, but has a growing membership none the less. Who are we?


        The United Electrical Workers, and the local there is UE 150. They would be a good sourse of info on NC law. We also represent the Public Service workers in Virginia UE 160, and West Virginia, UE 170. These states are also those denying bargaining rights to state employees.

        These states and the other RTW states are hell on working people.

        Just your average every day Autistic hillbilly/biker/activist/union steward with an engineering degree.

        by Mentatmark on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 07:52:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Probably not illegal, (7+ / 0-)

      but time spent on a bathroom break reduces your productivity, so the farther the walk, the lower your numbers, and the less you make.

      I will vote for Obama, and every Democrat I can vote for, in 2012.

      by Food Gas Lodging on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:53:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  One has "stats" and the parameters of these (13+ / 0-)

      stats include how much time one has off of the telephone for breaks, lunch, blowing one's nose etc. One is allocated x number of minutes in the day for breaks and lunch. In order for one not to fuck up their "stats" which is one of the main parameters by which one's job performance is judged, one learns to get everything done in this time period. If one has to go more frequently for whatever reason, be it a bad burrito or too much coffee, one better just shorten one's lunch time to balance the difference.
      And if one should have issues of the bathroom nature after one has had lunch, one will blow their numbers and have to compensate later in the week, unless it's month-end and there is no more future week for that month, then one has simply screwed up for the month and it is recorded as such. All for a burrito from a vending machine.  

      Occupy your mind. - No better friend, no worse enemy.

      by Thousandwatts on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:55:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I THINK for every 4 hours of work there must (2+ / 0-)

      be a 15 minute break.

    •  FAmily member of mine works for UHG in CA (15+ / 0-)

      It is a system built on demoralizing the employee. You are constantly on "final warning" and worried you will be fired. You can take bathroom breaks but too many and they are watching you always. If you are late that is an "occurrence" it is a horrible place to work, shitty benefits (the worst they offer out of all companies they handle), terrible hours and no relationships because you are always on the phone. No raises in years.


      by voracious on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:58:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I find this stuff very difficult to understand. (27+ / 0-)

        How can you run a company without happy and secure employees?

        I have a very small business and I'm not close to being rich. My debts exceed my assets.

        And yet I pay my secretary more than $75,000 a year, plus really good benefits, including unlimited sick leave during a time where she has a fatal illness.

        This is hurting me in the short-term, but I hope to get some credit in the afterlife.  But that's not why I'm doing what I'm doing...I'm doing it because it is simply the right thing to do.

        "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow." -- last words of Steve Jobs.

        by Timaeus on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:17:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wow - (15+ / 0-)
          I'm doing it because it is simply the right thing to do.

          I wish more people were like you.

          "Republicans only care about the rich" - My late Father (-8.25, -7.85)

          by Mark E Andersen on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:20:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  How you can run a company (16+ / 0-)

          without happy and secure employees:

          1.  Have jobs that, in your view, anybody can learn to do in a relatively short amount of time.
          2.  Have a desperate work force that's looking for any shit job with shit pay so they can scrape by.

          27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-07 (originally), liberal-leaning independent

          by TDDVandy on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:22:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Look at it this way. (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sawgrass727, revsue, ozsea1, Matt Z, JVolvo

          The world of business is a lot like the world of nature.  There is no one path to success for every species (of plant/animal or business).  Survival of the fittest is the name of the game both in nature and in business, but "fit" does not mean the same thing for every species.  Everyone kind of has their niche and as gaps are formed, some new company comes along to fill that gap.

          But at their core, in nature as in business, survival is given to the entities that can adapt to changing environment and exploit that environment.  

          If you can maintain a business with a $75,000/year secretary then good for you.  Some businesses who follow the "Doing well by doing good" ethos do very well.  But it's all about what your corporate priorities are and the evironment you live in.  Many companies do not see beyond the short term gain or do not exist in an environment that would allow for such generosity.  

          Many could definately afford to be more generous, but are not in pursuit of "growth".  Especially in REALLY large publicly traded companies, it's not enough to pull in a profit, you have to pull in MORE profit than the quarter or year before or you're considered a failure.  So they're constantly chasing that "growth", often in ways that ultimately undermine their customer base.  

          We are seeing this now with the Banking industry loading customers with exploitive fees or even in industries that provide products from clothing and shoes to cellphones and electronics.  Gone are the days when large corporations paid their employees enough to afford their products or services.  Those jobs have all been shipped overseas for a fraction of the cost to people who couldn't possibly afford to buy what they make.

          And THAT is part of the problem we have in this country.

          I started a blog. It's still a work in progress but if you're interested, come on by. Dawn of Ambivalence

          by DawnG on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 07:40:32 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Hmmmm.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          How can you run a company without happy and secure employees?

          Because companys don't care about the employees, only that they work, work, work.
          The employee doesn't like it, then they can leave.  It's the crappy company's mantra to an unhappy employee.
          It's a bad economy and companys know they can always get employees.  And about the treatment of the employee? - the companys have huge legal teams who make sure of all the employment laws and follow them within a very fine line of almost illegality.

          I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

          by Lilyvt on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:14:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I think the bigger question is (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mark E Andersen, Timaeus

          why would you want to?

          How can you run a company without happy and secure employees?

          What kind of sick sociopath makes a decision to treat people like slaves?

          And why is is socially acceptable?

          Rule of thumb: If it's advertised on TV, you probably shouldn't buy it.

          by VictorLaszlo on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 03:27:03 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  When I worked at airline call center (10+ / 0-)

        they kept people on with the flight benefits --great for people who could afford to work part time.

        There were also women working to be with their kids during the days, so they worked an evening shift. Wife did a.m.s and afterschool, wife's shift started a tiny bit after hubby got home so he could do the evenings. Some of the mothers home schooled during days. --It was somehow ok for mom to have no sleep, but heaven forbid those kids would have a public education.

        the call center made it seem like "flexible" hours was a perk, but the hours were only flexible for the employer. We had to bid for our shifts, so you didn't know if you could enroll for the whole semester for a college course, since your hours and days off could change.

        newbies got the 5-6pm to 2am shifts. Shitty traffic on the way in, bad roads in the winter going home in the dark. No social life.

        Night shift people tended to like it--far fewer supervisors, though the 4am's were always hard, and the switch from slowish calls to really busy at 7 am was tough. but they got fewer calls from the type A business people, overall.

        •  Yup.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mike08, JVolvo

          I've worked all different shifts in call centers and I definitely prefer the evening/night shift.  Many less supervisors and since we didn't have the call flow we were able to do much more other work.
          There was a perceptible change in the atmosphere once 5P came, it became a viable workplace rather than the daily grind.  In many places there was a shift differential and that certainly made it more attractive.  We also formed a very close comraderie with the others on the shift, because we weren't being scrutinized within an inch of our lives and had time to talk.  It always amazed the people who worked during the day that we were able to finish their work and get our work done as well.  But no-one from management understood it was because we were relatively happy working within the much more relaxed parameters than they did working during the day.

          I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

          by Lilyvt on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:30:17 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  1990 or 1991 at Hertz Worldwide Reservations (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mike08, Abelia, JVolvo

      My colleague is in the last months of her pregnancy and her stats show her uplugging from the phone meaning less than 98% occupancy.  I was sitting near the supervisor's desk when she was being reprimanded.  When she explained that she just had to have frequent bathroom breaks during this part of her pregnancy, the supervisor asked, "Can't you just hold it?"

      What I saw in that call center was like looking into the dark future of what was to come for America. Health insurance?  I still remember when they told us the good news:  this year we had choices!  We could go into several HMOs, but we would have to contribute or we could keep the old plan where the company paid, but face very reduced benefits.  However, we had the power of choice!  Every year the share we paid grew bigger and bigger, but the company amount decreased.  

      The most important part of the company handbook explained that it was critical to immediately report to management if anyone approached you about joining a union.  

      Hell holes that pass for workplaces. What a racket!

      It gets on my nerves, and you know how I am about my nerves...

      by ciganka on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 03:23:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Love defination of RIGHT TO WORK laws being pushed (17+ / 0-)

    as really being RIGHT TO WORK FOR LESS.


  •  Former caller (16+ / 0-)

    here; in these times, these jobs are all that's left for some communities.  They are easy to set up and there's no shortage of labor.  

    In my case, successful callers took home decent pay, but the rest were rotated out quickly.  

    There's simply no time at all to work on labor issues the work space is deliberately set up so that you can see the new potential coworkers (replacements) taking the interview tour everyday.

    I will vote for Obama, and every Democrat I can vote for, in 2012.

    by Food Gas Lodging on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:49:38 PM PST

  •  Al Sharpton had a guest (18+ / 0-)

    on his new segment "Here are the jobs" who was talking about hiring 500 people for a call center.

    And I cringed a bit.

    Apparently Al is unaware that call centers are the modern era sweatshops.

    "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."

    by TrueBlueMajority on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:51:45 PM PST

  •  Speaking as someone... (10+ / 0-)

    ...who has worked at what could be classified as "call centers" most of my adult life, they really are not created equal.

    Some are pretty nice, some are downright shitty (and I could tell you some stories) but something that is universal among all of them is that they are going to resist unionizing.  That is not specific to call centers.  Pretty much ANY company that does not start out unionized, is going to fight tooth and nail against unionizing for the simple reason that it takes decision making power away from the corporation and gives it to the workers.

    I know what you're saying:  That's the entire point!  I'm not disagreeing with that, but Corporations aren't in the business of ceding power to anyone, much less employees and there is a general sentiment in business that unions make you less competative.  It's not a wholey unfounded sentiment, but it's also not going to destroy a well run corporation either.

    I used to work at one call center (my first actually) where this guy tried to get people fired up about unionizing but it never went anywhere.  The workers were more or less satisfied with the way things were (at the time), or they couldn't see how being a member of a union would improve things.

    It's all well and good to talk about the union busting efforts companies take, but it's another thing entirely to communicate what benefits come from being unionized, especially in a field that isn't known for great benefits (and most call centers fall into that category).  Bargaining power can improve things, but it can only go so far.

    I started a blog. It's still a work in progress but if you're interested, come on by. Dawn of Ambivalence

    by DawnG on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:52:16 PM PST

  •  What does OSHA and/or building code people... (5+ / 0-)

    ...think about the bathroom situation? It shouldn't be a union issue that there be adequate bathrooms in the building.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:56:22 PM PST

  •  Computer help desk (7+ / 0-)

    I worked at a very large one that was very much a sweatshop with people being carried off in an ambulance for stress related  illness almost daily.  Instead of doing something about it, they just piled on the stress even more.  They just plain didn't care for anything except for the bottom line.

    Now the desk in question has mostly been outsourced to India.  


    I promote fear of me because I am a coward; I promote equality because I know there's nothing to fear.

    by bristlecone77 on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 05:56:25 PM PST

  •  I worked for Sitel. (13+ / 0-)

    It was a soul-draining job. At the time, I did tech support for America Online through them. Ugh.

  •  I work for a call center (6+ / 0-)

    for TW Cable, and it's better than most, but still sucks.  

  •  Medicare (6+ / 0-)

    I am confused by this statement:

    This employee said that between Medicare and Sitel's benefits, she did not have to pay much out of pocket.

    Medicare is for people over 65 or people who are disabled.  Does the employee in question fits one of those categories?

    •  That I do not know - (3+ / 0-)

      - I did not interview that employee. That story was referred to me by my source. I am confident that the statement is factual; however, it is possible that "medicare" is being used as some type of government assistance for medical care.

      "Republicans only care about the rich" - My late Father (-8.25, -7.85)

      by Mark E Andersen on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:10:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's sometimes used interchangeably with Medicaid. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jabney, msmacgyver, DawnG

        If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, then Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

        by Bush Bites on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:13:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The terms Medicare and Medicaid are (6+ / 0-)

          often confused but they are two entirely different programs.  Medicare is the plan into which employees and employers pay equally and which provides medical coverage at retirement.  It is tied to Social Security.

          Medicaid is for low income and resource individuals and is subsidized by State and Federal government and run by the states.

          When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day? George Carlin

          by msmacgyver on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:45:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Medicare also covers disabled workers below (0+ / 0-)

            the full retirement age who have paid into the system and who the government considers qualified following the disability application process. Medicare for disabled workers doesn't kick in until they have collected Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for two years.

            SDDI should not be confused with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which is the program that covers seniors as well as disabled individuals who have not paid in enough to collect the minimum standard of Social Security or SSDI. Today SSI includes many children.  Folks on SSI usually receive their health care from Medicaid, administered by their state.

            While Medicare and SSDI are funded by the contributions of workers and employers SSI and Medicaid are funded by the general fund.

    •  I have the same question and also (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Naniboujou, KenBee, NM Ward Chair

      clipped the excerpt:

      This employee said that between Medicare and Sitel's benefits, she did not have to pay much out of pocket.

      In the context of the anti-union speech, it makes absolutely no sense at all.

      When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day? George Carlin

      by msmacgyver on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:36:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  As was said, the person was probably (6+ / 0-)

        referring to Medicaid.  That's been the big complaint about Walmart's wages.  Most of their employees are eligible for federal benefits such as Food Stamps and Medicaid because of low wages.

        Corporations aren't people; they're Republicans. Rev. Al Sharpton

        by HappyinNM on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 07:28:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree with you that the employee (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KenBee, HappyinNM, Mike08

          meant Medicaid. In any event, that is not something a company would want to brag about and certainly not as a way of convincing a non-union company to stay that way.  

          Link to Wiki Medicaid and excerpt:


          Having limited assets is one of the primary requirements for Medicaid eligibility, but poverty alone does not qualify a person to receive Medicaid benefits unless they also fall into one of the defined eligibility categories. According to the CMS website, "Medicaid does not provide medical assistance for all poor persons. Even under the broadest provisions of the Federal statute (except for emergency services for certain persons), the Medicaid program does not provide health care services, even for very poor persons, unless they are in one of the designated eligibility groups." In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid eligibility starting in 2014; people with income up to 133% of the poverty line qualify for coverage, including adults without dependent children.

          When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day? George Carlin

          by msmacgyver on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 07:48:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Good work. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Then it would appear that the employee said Medicare and wasn't corrected because the employer didn't want to associate with Medicaid.  Unfortunately, the CW is that Medicare is an earned benefit while Medicaid is a handout.  It would also appear that the ACA is a good thing.  I personally like to call it Obamacare because I don't want anyone to forget who was president when it was enacted.  It needs some tweaking, but ultimately it will be of great benefit to all of us.

            Corporations aren't people; they're Republicans. Rev. Al Sharpton

            by HappyinNM on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 10:22:56 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I've learned that it's important (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              HappyinNM, Mike08

              to know something about the government programs the GOPers refer to collectively as "entitlements".

              Clearly the employee didn't know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid and that's typical of those who allow the GOPers to convince them that these government programs should be eliminated.

              When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day? George Carlin

              by msmacgyver on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 10:51:15 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  probably disabled. Wages are so low that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DawnG, ozsea1

      disabled can work part time and still keep their social security disability.

      If you are disabled, you can earn up to $800 per month, but that's tricky, because someone could decide your working demonstrates an ability to support yourself.

  •  Can we get one of those computers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney, revsue, koosah

    To track members of Congress?

  •  the workers don't understand capitalism (5+ / 0-)

    where they should be grateful to have their jobs as in many states, inmates are used as call center employees for the princely sum of $3 per diem.  Of course, the problem with inmates appears to be that they are already de facto unionized

  •  My wife worked for Sitel in 2004 (12+ / 0-)

    From about January - May 2004.  She was doing customer service for GM.

    She came home every night in tears at how horrible the management was, all the rules (like getting chastised if your break went 1 minute longer than it was supposed to).

    She finally just quit, as living on one income was a hell of a lot better than the stress that placed caused her.

    GOD! Save me from your followers.

    by adversus on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:15:54 PM PST

  •  I attended a Job fair a week ago, and Sitel was (11+ / 0-)

    there soliciting for employees.  The sad part was they had a very long line of people wanting to work for them, but it's not surpirsing as Asheville was ranked by Forbes as the 13th most difficult city in the nation to find employment.

    I know as I too have been looking for work for 5 months and not even a nibble.... I have now turned my search out of the area, and out of state as well.

    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution, inevitable." - President John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963)

    by LamontCranston on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:18:54 PM PST

  •  Bangalore? (5+ / 0-)

    So how do you go about unionizing a call center without it being moved to Bangalore?

    My employer's call center could be unionized, maybe.  Pretty close to 100% of the people who work there speak Spanish, Korean, Russian or another language not widely spoken in Bangalore.

    Maybe that's why we got Kindle Fires for Christmas?

  •  I didn’t know there were still (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux, DawnG

    call centers in the US.
    (yet not snark)

    •  There are a lot of call centers... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      revsue, congenitalefty, KenBee the U.S.  There was an exodus of this work to India, but there is a stigma attached to that so many companies brought that work back.

      And call centers fill a lot of different functions including telemarketing, debt collecting, customer service, technical support, order processing.  

      Pretty much anytime you call a company for whatever reason, (or a company calls you for whatever reason)chances are you're talking to someone, somewhere, in a call center.

      I started a blog. It's still a work in progress but if you're interested, come on by. Dawn of Ambivalence

      by DawnG on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 08:02:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Peggy" is usually in Bangalore (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, annieli, NM Ward Chair

    Little rule I live by: "Never trust a dude in a tunic."

    by SpamNunn on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 06:33:10 PM PST

  •  Many call centers receive investment incentives (4+ / 0-)

    As much as $10,000 per job for high-end call centers when they start up. I was not able to find any indication that this Sitel facility had received incentives. But I did see articles where Sitel has received incentives elsewhere.

    I had a section on call center incentives in a report I did for the Global Subsidies Initiative in 2007: free download at

    •  Here today, gone tomorrow (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, Kenneth Thomas

      Sykes got a lot of attention for taking advantage of incentives then leaving when the incentives ran out.

      Case Study of Sykes Enterprises Inc. (2005) centers came to be regarded as an economic development panacea for small cities and rural areas--and in many cases the operators of these centers were lured with tax breaks and other subsidies. Eventually, however, state and local officials realized that call-center jobs could evaporate just as fast as they appeared.

      The company that best exemplifies the rise and fall of the call-center economy is Tampa-based Sykes Enterprises Inc. The company has a history of systemically seeking subsidies from the communities in which it planned to open facilities. Indeed, a company vice president once said: "Every one of our locations is a result of some incentive plan...If a community is inviting Sykes to build a call center, they are expected to deed the land for two call centers to us, and give incentives of at least $2.5 million." Many of those communities that put out the financial welcome mat for Sykes ended up sorely disappointed

      The report cites a score of examples and I lost track of cash incentives when the total exceeded $10,000,000.  Here's a typical one:

      Sykes' 2000 subsidies from the city of Palatka and Putnam County Florida included $3 million from the County, a five-year property tax exemption, and 22 acres of free land. About 200 workers lost their jobs when Sykes closed the facility in the fall of 2004. Local attorney Timothy Keyser wasn't surprised: "That seems to be how that corporation makes its money. They dangle jobs to jurisdictions that pay them tax money."
      It's my understanding that Sykes generally kept the deed to the land given to them.

      After sucking at the teat of local incentives, Sykes moved most of those jobs overseas.  

  •  Sweatshop work: I grade ACT tests for 25 cents ea. (5+ / 0-)

    This sounds familiar. I work(ed) for a company that grades standardized tests like the ACT, SAT, etc. It started out as fairly abusive work terms, everyone was hired as independent contractors on short term (4 to 8 weeks) so they wouldn't have to pay benefits. But despite the horribly low pay, it had some actual benefits, like if you worked a certain number of hours per year you were eligible for health insurance that was partly paid for by the company. You got 25 cent per hour raises after you worked 1000 hours.

    THEN the company switched to piecework. You got paid like 25 cents per piece. You have to score 40 papers an hour to make your minimum expected "metric" and make the minimum $10/hour. So that gives you 90 seconds to read a paper that's up to 5 pages long, that a student probably put an hour into writing. Workers are encouraged (expected) to work faster, which means that someone might only spend 30 seconds reading the paper. Faster work means more money for you.

    Think about that: your kids' ACT exams, the tests that determine whether he gets into a good school or not, are being graded by pissed off, stressed out employees that have little incentive to even read the paper.

    But it gets worse. Now the work is being outsourced to home workers. You get piecework rates but you have to provide your own computer. The main office has now become a call center, where employees that used to make decent wages are now phone drones, supervising hundreds of employees across the country who are working in their homes. The remote workers are constantly monitored by computers, and the phone center workers' duty is to read the reports and fire employees that are underperforming. Then they phone up some other employee desperate for more work. There are always more employees desperate for the job. Most of the call center work has been moved to other states where workers get about $1 less than the site I worked at.

    I suppose there is some justice in this scenario. Most of the full-time employees were fired and told they could reapply for their jobs as perma-temps. Now they have learned what it's like to have no benefits. But as the money has been pulled out of the national testing program of No Child Left Behind, the competition for the few remaining jobs has become fierce, even hostile. Some employees feel entitled to the few remaining jobs, and will harass people who compete with them. It should not surprise you that I no longer work for them because I filed an EEOC grievance.

    •  I did this one summer (0+ / 0-)

      While I was out of work I did it for a few months grading these tests.  At the end of my career there I was able to grade a full page essay in about 5-10 seconds.  I was hitting all metrics and scoring above 98% accuracy.

      Of course I never "read" anything at that point except to find the key elements the test-makers wanted graded.  It is the whole point of the standardized test.  Hence why they are awful measures of specific performance except as just a check box.

      At the end of my "career" there before going back to my real life, I was splitting all of the spiffs with another girl who had figured out the system as well.  In an old closed-down Sears store full of hundreds of people, we were consistently the top two.  

      I sat near mostly teachers and educators who never graded more than 40 tests an hour while I was cruising along at over 4 times that.

      This isn't a good nor a bad thing, it is just a fact.  My actions conformed to the design of what the folks at the top of the organization wanted.  I was exactly the model employee they desired.  A drone.  Bleah.

  •  Remaining competitive (3+ / 0-)
    And, "[I]f we were forced to raise wages we could not remain competitive in the market and would not be able to win any new accounts to service."

    In order for the company to remain competitive with other companies we must make sure our employees are not able to compete much in food gathering and attaining medical care. The more the workers have to struggle to survive, the better we compete with other companies.

    Fu*k that motherfu*kin bullshit. Kiss my motherfu*kin ass.

  •  Bi-partisan effort to stop outsourcing call center (0+ / 0-)

    This didn't seem to get the attention I thought it deserved, but then I presently work in a call center and have an issue with speaking to someone in another country about my cable, cell phone or with regard to my GM vehicle when I spent 72 weeks looking for a job.  So this story jumped right off of the page at me.
    Underemployed beats unemployed hands down but it still has serious drawbacks.

    Occupy your mind. - No better friend, no worse enemy.

    by Thousandwatts on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 08:59:10 PM PST

  •  Call centers are a version of hell. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NM Ward Chair

    I work from home for a company that is actually far ahead of the game insofar as the way they treat employees.  They train, they continue to train, they are supportive, and the benefits are really good.  Pay not so great unless you are great at sales (I like to help people decide what they want, not ask them "can I hold that for you?" after every I'm not great).   They provide computer equip and maintain it.  I pay high-speed internet and phone line.  

    So...what is so hellish?

    No control over work flow.  Remember the Lucy episode with the chocolates, or any assembly line where the product just keeps coming?  When calls are backed up, they come in on top of one another so there isn't time to finish what you need for the call before.  No time to take a breath, sip water, etc.   Tied to the phone by a headset.  At any time we're being recorded and the screen watched so they can review everything done on most calls...and there are lists of metrics.   I managed to get to a point where I deal with high-profit customers so call length isn't as much a factor as happy, returning customers--otherwise I'd be nuts by now.

    Still--on one hand we hear more than anything else that we need to provide superior customer service.  Exceptional customer service.  Everything is set up to provide that.  We are to LISTEN to customer's needs and emotions BUT still held responsible for following all details of the service script, in a specific order.  (Suppose you call and say "I need to check quickly--do you still have those widgets on sale for next week, and if my boss agrees, could you ship them right away?  I need to know for a meeting in 5 minutes."  We are still graded to see if we asked for name, phone number, vendor code, and another 8 "mandated" qualifying questions BEFORE WE CHECK TO SEE IF WE HAVE THE WIDGETS.   Yes, maybe they're shopping around.  Yes, it would be good to know details of who called.   But we're stuck in a dissonant mine field where we have conflicting mandates; excellent customer service or keeping the job.  It's very stressful. )

    "Because inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened." -Terry Pratchett

    by revsue on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 09:02:43 PM PST

    •  As a call center designer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I would tell you that most good folks throw out anomalous calls and data.  Having "one bad" call or item occasionally just shows you're human and even random chance gives everyone a weird caller occasionally.

      I caution people who manage call center managers (never say this to a call center manager), that they should look for people who are both having lots of anomalous calls and none of them.  Both groups should be punished.

      Unfortunately, everyone likes to believe that by some miracle some people are just able to handle "problem customers" in 45 seconds while others take 20 minutes.  Nobody is that good.  People who never have the "strange call" appear on their metrics are dumping.

      •  I've reached the level (0+ / 0-)

        where "dumped" calls are transferred to the lines I cover.  (along with many others, of course).   I'm customer service back-up as well as handling customer loyalty and high-end customers world-wide.   I've been a college counselor, and my Master's specialized in counseling.  I'm pretty good at listening, de-escalating, and problem-solving.

        I just wish the folks who set up things would narrow the scope.  My company handles 9 different "brands" of products, from highest end to quality basic.  They are very different products designed for different customers and uses...altho each has a few things in common.  Each brand has a different script depending on the brand AND how the call comes in.  We have different allowed responses depending on whether it came in by internet, toll-free general call, or went to the store and was transferred to us to handle (in which case we must pretend to be AT the store and local).  If the call is thru customer loyalty program or transferred to it, different scripts depending on level.  If it's customer service complaint, different call again.   It's definitely more efficient for the company to have people who can handle any call short of supervisory-- but getting scored on calls when I might be getting a bare minority using that metric is not fun.

        "Because inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened." -Terry Pratchett

        by revsue on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:55:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  excellent article. this sounds like hell to me. i (0+ / 0-)

    wonder what the turn-over rate is?

    •  .... (0+ / 0-)
      this sounds like hell to me. i wonder what the turn-over rate is?

      It IS hell, and the turnover rate is outrageously high.

      I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

      by Lilyvt on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 05:49:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In talking to various sources... (0+ / 0-)

        ...I believe it is about 25%; however, I have no way to confirm that as it is doubtful Sitel would give me the time of day.

        "Republicans only care about the rich" - My late Father (-8.25, -7.85)

        by Mark E Andersen on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:26:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hmmmm.... (0+ / 0-)

          Having worked in many call centers, the overall turnover rate goes WAY beyond 25%.
          But then again, in many of those call centers we were told it was a place people liked to come to work which was patently untrue, it was just another way the 'managers' had of 'lying with statistics' to appease the shareholders and to keep us in our places.  
          The attrition rate can be manipulated, and it far exceeds 25%.  

          I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

          by Lilyvt on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:47:40 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I do not disagree... (0+ / 0-)

   this case there is no way for me to get the actual number.

            "Republicans only care about the rich" - My late Father (-8.25, -7.85)

            by Mark E Andersen on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:49:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  .... (0+ / 0-)

              Yup, and I understand, but the beauty of (and only for) the company's metrics and attrition rate is that you can't ever get an actual number.
              They lie, and it's always, always to the advantage of the company....until the company goes under (ie. Enron among others).

              I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

              by Lilyvt on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 06:54:42 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Don't know Sitel (0+ / 0-)

            But you're correct in that 25% is low.  A number that low would be expected for a mature call center w/ a mature product/solution they're backing.  Things like hospital, bank or credit union call centers commonly have lower %'s.  

            However, for Sitel who are professional outsourcers for call centers I'd say it is higher.

            There are some tactics however that I counsel my clients toward and might be the case for this location of Sitel.  That is to locate a call center in smaller towns that are primarily industrial or agricultural w/ little to no commercial.

            A call center job is viewed as a white-collar office job to most outsiders and therefore you can find a workforce in such places who has few choices of similar work and often will stay regardless of the environment.

  •  All the more reason (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark E Andersen

    Why the unions need to start re-branding their image, so people get educated in their rights, and how a union will help to extend those rights.

  •  Extended bathroom breaks are now a "human right?" (0+ / 0-)

    Seriously guys... your joking right?

  •  The way call centers are... (0+ / 0-)

    ...bathroom breaks (no matter how many the number) are discouraged. The way the powers figure it, you're paid to talk to customers on the phone. If you are really having a bad day and need to go lots of times, those over you are likely, so to speak, to flip the bird on you and write you up. It's hard to keep your composure and have that happen to you. Putting it mildly, it forces you to choose between your job and your health, and any way you look at it, that's not a very good choice.

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Gandhi

    by alaprst on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 09:37:30 AM PST

  •  All my incoming calls are from Dems. (0+ / 0-)

    Next time I get a call from a call center seeking a donation to the DCCC or any Democratic cause, I'm asking whether the caller is a union member. If not, I'm asking to speak to the supervisor, then I'm saying "No more money till you unionize!"

    Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits. Satchel Paige 1906-82

    by threesmommy on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 02:58:07 PM PST

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