CWA Call Center Workers Protest Illegal Layoffs
Workers who are organizing with CWA at Maximus traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to urge Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Beccera to investigate labor practices at Maximus, protect workers from unfair and unnecessary layoffs, and raise wages for contracted workers to $25 per hour. Maximus, the federal government’s largest call center contractor, provides services to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
At the rally, workers described poor working conditions, including low pay, unaffordable health care benefits, and few paths to promotion, especially for Black and Latinx women. Daija Arrington, a Maximus CDC call center worker, said that despite an excellent performance record, she was laid off just before Mother’s Day. “I believe the real reason I was laid off was in retaliation for speaking out about Maximus’s working conditions, and to scare my coworkers from supporting a union. But we have a right to speak out and tell the truth, and to organize to improve our working conditions. That’s why we’re calling on HHS to hold Maximus accountable for mistreating workers, help us keep our jobs, and make sure we’re paid the fair wages we deserve.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) joined the workers’ protest, with Thompson declaring, “Maximus workers deserve to be rewarded for their hard work, not treated like they’re disposable and they don’t matter. It is imperative that HHS ensures that Maximus provides good jobs with living wages, and workers don’t have to face unfair and unnecessary layoffs.”
CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens echoed the workers’ calls for dignity and respect. “Federal contractors like Maximus are meant to provide good, dignified jobs. Instead, Maximus workers struggle to get by with low pay and little time off. They are tired and fed up with being told they're essential but being treated like they're disposable….Maximus should be investigated by the Biden administration and the HHS. It’s long past time we hold this federal contractor accountable and ensure that all workers at Maximus are given the respect they deserve.” CWA Public, Health Care and Education Workers Vice President Margaret Cook also joined the protest in support of the workers.
After Maximus laid off more than 700 workers in May — the company’s second round of layoffs this year — workers took to the streets outside of call centers to protest. Some workers say they were laid off for speaking out about working conditions, and many of the layoffs were based in part on unplanned absences, and therefore could affect workers with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and caregiving responsibilities. The layoffs occurred after top Maximus executives saw more than $12 million in compensation last year.
In the wake of the layoffs, CWA has filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that a Maximus manager made an implied promise of benefits to some workers in an effort to interfere with their organizing activity. Around the same time, a group of workers was forced to attend a meeting where a supervisor urged them to reject union representation and suggested that unionization could lead to layoffs and closure. CWA also alleges the company offered workers severance agreements that illegally restrict employees’ right to speak publicly about their experiences on the job.
You can support the workers by donating to their solidarity fund. Click here to donate.
A video of the event is available here.
Maximus call center worker Daija Arrington (top photo), CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens (middle photo), NAACP President Derrick Johnson (bottom photo, left), and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) (bottom photo, center) rallied outside of the Department of Health and Human Services last week to urge Secretary Xavier Beccera to investigate labor practices at Maximus.