Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) issued a letter yesterday calling on General Dynamics to ensure that the company is not illegally underpaying its federally contracted call center employees and is not violating its employees’ freedom to join together to negotiate better pay and working conditions.
“Our respective offices recently met with [General Dynamics Information Technology] employees from multiple [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] call centers and were deeply disturbed to hear reports of wage theft and unfair labor practices at these worksites,” the Senators stated in the letter. “We were especially startled that these may not be isolated instances, but may in fact reflect systemic and repeated labor violations by GDIT.”
The letter follows a series of complaints that the Communications Workers of America (CWA) has filed with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division calling on the agency to investigate systemic wage theft at more than a dozen call centers where GDIT employees handle inquiries from callers about Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. The complaints provide evidence that GDIT misclassifies its call center agents to pay them at a lower prevailing wage rate than their job duties merit. CWA estimates that GDIT may owe tens of thousands of current and former employees at these call centers more than $100 million in back wages.
In recent weeks, thousands of current and former GDIT call center employees have signed petitions calling on the Department of Labor to “investigate misclassification at GDIT call centers and ensure we receive the pay that we deserve and any back pay we are owed.”
“We’re not going to sit idly by and be treated as poorly as we’ve been treated,” said Venus Nelson, an employee at GDIT’s call center in Hattiesburg, MS. “We work hard, we deserve our pay, we deserve to be treated as fairly as anybody. And we’re excited to have the support of Senators willing to stand with us.”
In their letter to General Dynamics, Senators Sanders, Warren, and Merkley also cited concerns about unfair labor practices at GDIT’s call centers. “GDIT employees also reported to our offices that GDIT misinformed them about their rights as federal service-contract workers,” the Senators said. “This includes multiple reports of GDIT managers telling employees that it would take ‘an act of Congress’ to raise their wages—despite the [Service Contract Act] plainly allowing employees to bargain collectively for higher wages if they have union representation.” In February, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against GDIT for threatening employees and falsely telling them that only Congress could raise their wages.