A pro-union ad warning against the possibility of outsourcing 911 calls outside the United States if Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan's labor reform proposal is adopted has been attacked as "racist" by a local resident of Asian Indian descent. The ad depicts a woman calling 911, with her call being answered by an overseas operator. “This is 911 operator, I am Brad,” the ad begins in heavily accented English. The woman is told that a taxi will be sent instead of an ambulance, with the 911 operator saying “be grateful! It's nicer than the ambulance! But they were the low bidder, so...” KTVA Channel 11 captured the audio of the ad, which is embedded below:
Even though the ad attempts to show the downside of the mayor’s proposal, one local resident of Indian origin immediately played the race card because he thinks the foreigner in the ad sounds too much like an Indian telemarketer. Anand Dubey, an Anchorage resident for the past 14 years who ran unsuccessfully against Lindsay Holmes for the House District 19 seat in 2012, said that people in the so-called Indian-American community reached out to him in anger over the ads. “This day and age, something this obviously racist, and they're airing it on radio? …I had to ask myself, what are they really trying to say?”, said Dubey.
Coalition chairman Gerard Asselin said the ad has nothing to do with race, and that critics are missing the point. “The focus is the idea that this important work could be entirely outside of control, in a different country, and some of the problems that could be experienced by that”, explained Asselin. Nevertheless, the Coalition released an updated ad that doesn't feature anyone with a foreign accent. But that didn't satisfy Dubey, who's learned to play the race card from the examples set by other identity groups. Dubey insists it's too little, too late, and that it shows deep-rooted prejudice in his mind. It is despicable that Dubey would try to smear the local organized labor community with bogus charges of racism.
The fact remains that many corporations have opened up call centers in India, and that many Americans don't think they should be talking to someone in India or any other foreign country to resolve a problem they have in the United States. Furthermore, many Indians have taken jobs from Americans under the H-1B and H-2B visa programs, particularly in the IT industry. And to compound the problem, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced that it was proposing to provide employment authorization to H-4 visa holders, who are spouse-dependents of principal H-1B non-immigrant visa holders. To be fair, employers are just as responsible for the problem as the immigrants; Federal law forbids H-1B immigrants from taking jobs from Americans, but employers get around it by failing to advertise vacancies prominently in American sources, while advertising much more prolifically in foreign sources. One comment posted to KTVA highlighted the frustration of dealing with foreign call centers:
TedtheBear said yesterday at 5:56 AM:
This is an ad against outsourcing jobs to places like India. It not against anyone in general. If anyone have dealt with a firm that outsource their help line, you know why this sort of ad was made. I once called a Pontiac help line and talked to some nitwit from India who told me that Pontiac don't do any services in New York because it is not part of the United States. I once ran into a Dell computer help line where they refused to the honor a warranty because New Mexico is part of Mexico and warranty don't count in a foreign land. In both cases, I was talking to Indians in India. This is an ad against outsourcing jobs to foreign lands like India...not against Indians in general.
The Coalition of Municipal Unions operates the Alaska Workers Voice website to inform the public on their opposition to Mayor Dan Sullivan's labor reform proposal. They strongly oppose right-to-work, claiming that it undermines job growth. However, this claim doesn't always stand up; Utah, which is a right-to-work state, weathered the recession better than nearly every other state and has consistently maintained one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Perhaps the Coalition needs to do some better fact-checking.