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Rep. Bennie Thompson, NAACP President & CWA Representatives Joined the Press Conference to Call on HHS Secretary Becerra to Investigate Maximus
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against Maximus, the federal government’s largest call center contractor, after more than 700 employees were laid off at Maximus call centers this month – the company’s second round of mass layoffs this year.
Maximus operates the largest federally-contracted call centers in the country under contracts with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which are operated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The workers impacted by the layoffs were customer service representatives who support Obamacare and Medicare calls and who answer questions for the CDC-INFO line. Friday will be the last day of employment for hundreds of these workers. According to workers, layoffs were based in part on unplanned absences – a move that could disproportionately complicate the livelihoods of workers with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and caregiving responsibilities.
The charges allege that Maximus laid off some workers in retaliation for speaking out about their working conditions, and offered workers unlawful severance agreements. Specific allegations include:
- Maximus implied promises of benefits to employees with the purpose of interfering with employee-protected concerted activity and union activity.
- Maximus forced employees to attend a meeting during which a supervisor urged them to reject union representation. The same supervisor also impliedly threatened employees with layoff and worksite closure.
- Maximus offered employees severance agreements that unlawfully restrict their right to speak publicly about their experiences working at Maximus.
The charges come on the heels of a protest and press conference held by Maximus workers earlier today outside of HHS headquarters, where they were joined by Representative Bennie Thompson; Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP; and Sara Steffens, Secretary-Treasurer of Communications Workers of America (CWA).
At the press conference, Maximus workers called on HHS Secretary Becerra to investigate whether Maximus’ labor practices are consistent with its responsibilities as a federal contractor, to protect workers from unfair layoffs, and to increase the wages of HHS-contracted workers at Maximus to $25 per hour.
“I was appalled to learn that Maximus has announced layoffs affecting more than 700 call center workers who work under contracts with HHS,” said Rep. Thompson. “This includes many workers who have been active union supporters and who have been brave enough to come forward and share their experiences about racial inequity at the company. 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.”
“NAACP members in every part of our country expect the federal government to use its power to set the highest standards for just and equitable economic opportunities for Black Americans,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson. “I am here to say clearly to Maximus and the Biden administration that we have great concern to learn that the same courageous workers who spoke out about racial disparities and barriers to climbing the career ladder at Maximus last month were included in this surprise round of layoffs. The federal government needs to protect workers when contractors respond to allegations of systemic racism by laying off the very workers who spoke out about racial justice in their workplace. Billion-dollar contracts paid with tax dollars should receive direct oversight from Congress and the Executive Branch. The NAACP stands with CWA and Congressman Bennie Thompson in calling on Secretary Becerra to investigate Maximus’ labor practices, protect workers from unfair and unnecessary layoffs, and raise wages for contracted workers to $25 per hour.”
“I was laid off two days before Mothers Day, along with 700 of my co-workers, despite my great performance record with no discipline,” said Daija Arrington, who worked at Maximus handling calls for the CDC for three years. “I believe the real reason I was laid off was in retaliation for speaking out about Maximus’ working conditions, and to scare my co-workers 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.”
“Workers at Maximus have been organizing with CWA to fight for living wages, affordable healthcare, fair treatment, and a voice on the job," said Sara Steffens, Secretary-Treasurer at CWA. "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 of being told they're essential but being treated like they're disposable. As the largest federal call center contractor, and with the vast majority of its revenue coming from the federal government, 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.”
A video recording of the event is available here: https://fb.watch/kLiCjHqmpT/.
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