A different kind of backlash

A DIFFERENT KIND OF BACKLASH…. There’s been a fair amount of polling recently that shows John McCain’s relentlessly negative campaign style backfiring — he’s struggled to narrow the gap, and he’s driven up his negative ratings.

But this week, McCain’s anti-Obama attacks prompted a very different kind of backlash, when at least three dozen workers at an Indiana telemarketing call center chose to walk off the job rather than read a McCain campaign script.

Nina Williams, a stay-at-home mom in Lake County, Indiana, tells us that her daughter recently called her from her job at the center, upset that she had been asked to read a script attacking Obama for being “dangerously weak on crime,” “coddling criminals,” and for voting against “protecting children from danger.”

Williams’ daughter told her that up to 40 of her co-workers had refused to read the script, and had left the call center after supervisors told them that they would have to either read the call or leave, Williams says. The call center is called Americall, and it’s located in Hobart, IN.

“They walked out,” Williams says of her daughter and her co-workers, adding that they weren’t fired but willingly sacrificed pay rather than read the lines. “They were told [by supervisors], `If you all leave, you’re not gonna get paid for the rest of the day.”

The daughter, who wanted her name withheld fearing retribution from her employer, confirmed the story to us. “It was like at least 40 people,” the daughter said. “People thought the script was nasty and they didn’t wanna read it.”

A second worker at the call center confirmed the episode, saying that “at least 30” workers had walked out after refusing to read the script.

“We were asked to read something saying [Obama and Democrats] were against protecting children from danger,” this worker said. “I wouldn’t do it. A lot of people left. They thought it was disgusting.”

For these call-center employees, they weren’t just demonstrating character by taking a stand, they were also making a personal sacrifice — by refusing to read McCain’s vile script, these workers gave up a day’s pay.

Keep in mind, robocalls are illegal in Indiana, forcing the McCain campaign to rely on these call centers to spread their smears. If more states passed similar laws, maybe we’d have more call-center-worker rebellions? And ultimately fewer loathsome Republican attacks over the phone?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.