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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Call center workers who handle health insurance issues for Americans have begun a day-long strike at facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Call center workers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Bogalusa, Louisiana, are employed by Maximus Inc., one of the nation’s largest federal call center contractors, The Sun Herald reported. Employees went on strike for the first time ever on Wednesday, demanding paid sick leave, competitive wages and better health insurance, the newspaper reported.

“These workers help American citizens access affordable health care every day, and they have a truly unaffordable health care plan,” said Victoria Miller, an organizer with the Communications Workers of America union who participated in the organizing. of the strike. “Maximus workers do tough jobs…and they deserve to have a decent middle-class wage.”

Workers also say Maximus tried to disrupt workers’ efforts to unionize.

Virginia-based Maximus says it respects its employees’ right to try to organize. In a statement, the company said it had increased wages and salaries and improved health care benefits within the limits of federal law, WDAM-TV reported.

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The company is also critical of federal law, which it says limits the wages and benefits offered by federal contractors.

Maximus “has improved healthcare benefits within the funding levels made available under the terms of the service contract agreement, under which we operate,” the company said. “Maximus also pushed for the modernization of the Service Contract Act, which was last updated in 1976 and limits the wages and benefits offered by federal contractors.”

The two call centers are among the company’s largest, according to a statement from a company representing workers. About 10,000 Maximus agents work at 11 call centers in nine states, according to the statement.

The strike was scheduled for March 23 as it is the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Call center workers are under contract for Medicare and Medicaid services.

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