RESTON, VA -- Employees of Maximus, Inc. who work at call centers that handle Medicare and Federal ACA Marketplace inquiries attended the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Reston on Wednesday to call on Maximus to respect their right to organize free from fear, intimidation, and interference. They also called on the company to meet with a committee of workers to discuss how improved working conditions would help achieve better outcomes for Maximus and its customers without affecting the company’s bottom line since it is a federal contractor.
“If your employees aren’t treated fairly, it undermines our ability to deliver high quality service,” said Railonnie Brooks, a trainer at a Maximus call center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, speaking at the shareholder meeting. “When Maximus announced its purchase of GDIT’s call centers, our committee sent a letter to [Maximus] President Caswell requesting a meeting to discuss how improved working conditions would be a win-win for employees, the company, and the people we serve, but we never received a reply. We deserve better than to be ignored. Every day, we do the work to ensure Americans have access to the healthcare they need, but Maximus continues to pay us poverty wages.”
Maximus call center employees are currently paid as low as $10.35 an hour, despite the vital service they perform helping millions of Americans access health care. These low wages are partially due to misclassification under the SCA, according to workers, who handle complex inquiries and serious medical needs of Americans but are often paid at the lowest tier clerk classification. CWA has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor alleging systemic SCA misclassification and wage theft at these call centers, where it has been estimated that employees could be owed more than $100 million in back wages.
Brooks also emphasized at the shareholder meeting that improved working conditions would not even affect Maximus’ bottom line because, under the SCA, the company could seek a price adjustment from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to cover the costs of collectively-bargained increases to employee pay and benefits. “These are resources that could be flowing into our communities,” Brooks said.
Workers also point out that improved working conditions would help achieve better outcomes for Maximus and its customers by improving morale and reducing churn at call centers plagued by high turnover.
Prior to attending the meeting, Maximus call center employees delivered petitions to Congress signed by more than 600 co-workers calling on Congress to be vigilant in holding companies like Maximus accountable for labor violations. Workers brought a letter to the shareholder meeting addressed to Maximus employees from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) in response to the workers’ petitions to Congress. Schakowsky affirmed Congress’ commitment to ensuring fair treatment of federally contracted employees and to scrutinizing contractors.
“Any instance in which workers are denied a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work is unacceptable to me,” Schakowsky said in her letter. “It’s all the more disturbing when those doing work for the federal government are not treated properly. Our tax dollars should support good, family-supporting jobs. . . not subsidizing poverty wages.”
The U.S. Department of Labor is currently investigating allegations of massive wage theft at the call centers Maximus acquired from GDIT in November 2018.
Last week, Bloomberg Law published an article about Congressional inquiries into wage theft and other issues at Maximus call centers.
The Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University released a study of the Hattiesburg call center which found that proper SCA classification and a union would inject $40 million into communities in the Hattiesburg region and help create almost 200 new jobs over four years.