Home Career Employees of the Maximus call center continue to strike

Employees of the Maximus call center continue to strike

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Francis Poole says she is still normalizing medication from 2019 after doctors tried to save her life by removing her colon.

The last time she tried to top up the pills at the pharmacy, she said the bill was $ 70. She should also be regularly examined by a specialist.

“I just can’t afford it,” said the 55-year-old Poole.

Poole has spent the last seven years at the Maximus Federal in Hatisburg, a call center that has a contract with the federal government. All day she answers questions about the Obamacare market. Often, she says, the health benefits with which she helps subscribers are better than what she has through Maximus.

That’s why she became one of the call center’s most vocal staff, working with Communications Workers of America and its local branch in Hatisburg to organize Maximus workers. She was present their first strike in March and was again on the picket line for a two-day strike Monday and Tuesday.

In addition to offering assistance with the Affordable Care Act market, call center staff are also processing Medicare requests. About 10,000 Maximus employees work in 11 call centers. Employees of a call center in Louisiana also went on strike this week.

The workers say they have not seen a response from Maximus – the country’s largest federal contractor – since their first strike in March. Their biggest claims are still benefits and salaries. The changes that the company made earlier this year to improve wages and health care, according to workers, are not enough.

Maximus has reduced its healthcare franchise from $ 4,500 to $ 2,500 after staff pressure began in 2021.

“But who has $ 2,500?” said Poole.

Call center employees earn about $ 15 an hour, with most Hattiesburg employees earning between $ 31,000 and $ 35,000 a year before taxes. This latest increase came ahead of a presidential decree in January stating that all federal contractors are paid $ 15 an hour.

Most Hattiesburg workers before the pandemic earned between $ 9 and $ 11.

On Tuesday morning – as dozens of workers, activists and CWA members marched to report a strike on the second day – Maximus leaders held a virtual call to investors.

Maximus CEO Bruce Caswell called “people its advantage.”

“Our drive to make Maximus a better employer is not a new goal,” Caswell told investors, touting the flexibility the company offers with homework options and the recent cuts in healthcare costs.

In its second-quarter report, released earlier this month, Maximus reported revenue growth of 22.7% to $ 1.18 billion from last year. The company expects revenue for the last fiscal year to be between $ 4.5 billion and $ 4.7 billion.

Due to rising spending on essentials such as gas and food, Poole and her colleagues say stretching each salary has become increasingly difficult. Their wages, workers say, have never caught up with inflation, making it almost impossible to make any significant savings.

“What man, woman or family can survive on $ 9.05 an hour?” Said 49-year-old Jamie Brown, citing his longtime former salary as a Maximus employee. “I’ve been doing this for seven years. What makes me a non-professional? Why can’t you pay me as a professional? ”

Brown said he regularly helps insurance brokers do their jobs.

He is one of the parents of a 7-year-old son. Many of his former colleagues are single mothers; most of them are black.

Brown’s work ended with Maxim in March. He lodged a complaint with the National Commission for the Supervision of Labor Relations through the CWA, with which Maximus staff cooperates. A CWA statement said they were holding Maxiums accountable for preventing workers from forming a union.

Brown declined to comment on the specifics of the complaint and his separation from the company. Maximus said he does not comment on unfinished litigation, but respects workers’ rights to the organization.

Brown lived in Mississippi for almost two decades. He grew up in New York, where unions are more common. Organizers and experts across the Mississippi said one of the biggest obstacles facing organizers in the south is teaching workers their rights.

READ MORE: Starbucks and others trying to unite in Mississippi have been facing difficulties for decades

“There will be some ups and downs,” Brown said. “To improve you need to take the blows. We have to fight … but it won’t do us any good if we don’t do it. ”

In a statement, Maximus said it “meets regularly with its staff to address a variety of issues and concerns.” It also says it has a hotline for employees where employees can ask questions anonymously.

The CWA said nearly 100 workers in Mississippi went on strike this week.

“It can all go around,” Brown said, referring to the union. “Everyone could win.”

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