The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), along with more than 100 members of Congress, is urging a House Appropriations subcommittee to reject an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) request to use funding from its fiscal 2005 appropriation to set up a privatized national customer service center and close and consolidate field offices.

In a letter sent to the House Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Appropriations Subcommittee last week, 102 members of Congress said proposals being considered “could diminish the ability of the EEOC to perform its important mission of helping working Americans to fight back against discrimination in the workplace.” Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) led the effort on the letter.

The lawmakers’ letter cited a 2002 study by Purdue University’s Center for Customer-Driven Quality that says federal call centers provide better customer service than centers run by state and local agencies or private firms. The Purdue study also found that privatized call centers, particularly those set up to handle complicated inquiries about legal rights and protections, “can result in inferior service and increased costs.”

Lawmakers added that a study conducted by the American Immigration Lawyers of America in 2003 concluded that service “deteriorated dramatically” when the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services cut off access to its service centers and instead
directed callers to use a privatized call center.

The subcommittee is scheduled to mark up the funding bill this afternoon. We’ll let you know what happens.