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March 22, 2005

Privatization of EEOC

When you call for customer support, you know that the person answering the phone is probably in some call center. But when you've just been discriminated against by your employer and call the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you expect to talk to EEOC staff.

Not anymore. The federal government has just handed a private company a contract to run a call center to answer calls for the EEOC nationwide.

This is being done officially in the name of "efficiency" but this is a substantive change in structure of the EEOC. First, you have the decision to spend $4.9 million of EEOC budget not on creating in-house capacity but on an outside private firm. Under the Clinton administration, new funds helped the EEOC upgrade its capacity to deal with employment discrimination complaints, but funding levels have stalled under the Bush administration. And now the EEOC is privatizing those remaining funds.

And instead of regional offices receiving complaints, they will be received nationally, giving politicians at the top greater control and the career staff in the regional offices less power.

This just follows a pattern of centralization in the Bush administration. Look at the Wal-Mart deal, where local offices were prohibited from pursuing wage claims against the company but were told they had to funnel all complaints through the Little Rock DOL office.

One suspects that this EEOC centralization will be used for similar purposes, to suppress complaints against any corporate ally of the Bush administration by making sure no wayward regional office even hears about a complaint the Bush administration doesn't want pursued.

Posted by Nathan at March 22, 2005 09:03 AM