Bogalusa Federal Call Center Maximus On Strike
Published 9:25 am Thursday, November 9, 2023
BOGALUSA, La. – Call center workers employed by Maximus, one of the largest federal government call center contractors, have organized a strike demanding affordable healthcare, livable wages, and fair labor practices.
The strike action is taking place at Maximus call centers across several states during the Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period.
Maximus operates federally-contracted call centers under agreements with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), both entities operating under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These call center workers, primarily comprised of black and Latina women, handle millions of calls related to Obamacare and Medicare. The nine-year, $6.6 billion federal contract between Maximus and the government is responsible for the operation of twelve call centers, primarily located in the southern region of the United States.
The strike comes at a crucial time as the ACA and Medicare play a significant role in the Biden administration’s commitment to providing accessible healthcare. Reports indicate that millions of Americans lost Medicaid coverage following the conclusion of the COVID-19 public health emergency earlier this year. However, recent federal data suggests that only 350,000 individuals who lost Medicaid coverage have enrolled through ACA marketplaces as of June.
The Communications Workers of America (CWA), a prominent labor union, has called on the Biden administration to fulfill its pledge of creating good jobs for federal contract workers. The CWA is urging federal call center contracts to include provisions for livable wages of $25 per hour, affordable healthcare coverage, and an investigation into Maximus’ alleged unfair employment practices.
In Bogalusa, Louisiana, one of the strike locations, workers at the Maximus call center on Industrial Parkway Drive will gather outside the facility on Thursday, November 9, from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Notable attendees will include Tiger Hammond of Louisiana AFL-CIO, Kelvin May, Bogalusa City Attorney and State Representative Candidate, and Jim Wilkinson Jr. of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
The striking workers claim that they have been left with no alternative but to stage the strike, citing unanswered calls for livable wages and improved working conditions. They contend that the healthcare coverage provided to them is unaffordable, forcing them to postpone critical medical care. Likewise, they highlight the need for a minimum wage of $25 per hour and the opportunity to organize their union without fear of employer intimidation. They express frustration with the disparity between their crucial role in facilitating access to healthcare and the insufficient compensation they receive.
Maximus has faced accusations of impeding workers’ efforts to improve their working conditions, including allegations of illegal practices. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against Maximus in Region 15 for interfering with employee labor rights by calling the police to prevent the distribution of union information among coworkers. Maximus reached a settlement regarding this charge soon after it was issued.
Additional charges against Maximus are currently pending, alleging retaliation against workers who spoke out against racial disparities and supported the union, as well as the imposition of restrictions on employees’ right to publicly discuss their job experiences through severance agreements. Other charges point to the company’s alleged use of threats of layoff and worksite closure in response to employee union activities, along with offering financial incentives to dissuade workers from participating in a planned strike in November 2022.
The CWA has called for an investigation into Maximus, urging HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to scrutinize the company’s employment practices and its alignment with federal requirements. They contend that Maximus falls short of the Biden administration’s commitment to advancing racial equity and creating good, family-sustaining jobs, given its prominent role as the largest federal call center contractor. Concerns have been raised over low wages, insufficient protections against abusive callers, union-busting efforts, and unsafe working conditions at Maximus.
As federal call center workers at Maximus take a stand, their demands echo throughout the industry. Workers are calling for a raise in wages to $25 per hour, commensurate with compensation for federal employees in similar roles, as well as the provision of affordable healthcare benefits. Furthermore, they seek an investigation into potential racial disparities and equal employment opportunity obstacles within the company. Finally, they emphasize the need for an examination of Maximus’ employment practices to ensure compliance with federal contractor obligations.
The outcome of this strike will not only impact the lives and livelihoods of the call center workers but also shed light on the broader issue of fair treatment for workers in the healthcare industry. The Biden administration faces the challenge of upholding its commitment to creating good jobs for federal contract workers while balancing the complexities of the healthcare landscape.
The ongoing strike serves as a reminder that the intersection of labor rights, access to affordable healthcare, and fair treatment in the workplace continues to be an important national conversation.