MCLEAN, Va. — Communications Workers of America has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Maximus Inc., a federally contracted company that serves phone lines for the Medicare and Affordable Care Act market, has engaged in unfair practices after workers staged strikes last week at several call centres.
On August 8, workers at Maximus call centers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia staged walkouts to protest attendance and violate policies. On August 18, CWA announced that it had filed two charges with the NLRB, alleging that Maximus disciplined and intimidated employees participating in the strike. CWA represents public and private sector workers in 1,200 local unions.
An indictment claims an employee was disciplined “in retaliation for participating in protected concerted activities” in Chester, Virginia. The prosecution also alleges that management summoned the police, which the prosecution alleges interfered with the legal action of the workers.
The Chesterfield County Police Department confirmed that officers were called to the site address on the morning of August 8. No arrests were made.
Company spokeswoman Eileen Rivera said in an email that several protesters who are not employed by Maximus were disrupting the entrance to the call center and were twice asked to leave the property and walk away. move to an appropriate area so as not to enter by intrusion. When they refused, the police were called, she said.
“None of the less than half a dozen Maximus employees who participated in the picketing at the Chester plant have been disciplined,” she said. “All remain employed at the call center.”
A second charge filed in connection with the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, yard alleged that employees were required to “listen to the employer’s speech urging employees to reject union representation.”
“Management has consistently required employees to attend union-busting presentations, an intimidation tactic that interferes with and discourages employees from exercising their right to unionize,” the CWA press release reads.
“The allegation of a company-sanctioned presentation at one of our union-related call centers is false,” Rivera said.
Maxim, headquartered in Tysons, Va., employs approximately 37,000 people worldwide. Workers have organized to form a union in recent months and protested for higher wages and lower healthcare deductibles, in addition to recently denouncing some attendance and break policies during strikes. .
“Especially with the pandemic, I don’t really feel like we’re valued up there,” Hattiesburg call center worker Hayley Jefcoat said in June. “I felt like we were just a number. And someone can take our place at any time.
Jefcoat told the Federal Times that she participated in the strikes this month.
Do wages keep up with inflation?
Maximus has taken steps to address workers’ concerns, he said. In 2021, President Joe Biden announced the $15 minimum wage for 300,000 federal contractor employees, which the company honored.
In April, Maximus lowered insurance deductibles to $2,500 from $4,500. It also granted employees paid time off, as required by Executive Order 13706.
While many employees are demanding decent wages – not just minimum wages – the company said it has its hands tied to raise wages because of the way it operates under the Service Contracts Act. .
“The contractor can pay its employees more than the established minimums, but would have to cut costs elsewhere or seek additional funding from CMS, as it did last year when salaries were increased to $15 from the hour,” a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare said. & Health insurance services.
Still, workers say updated wages and benefits have not gone far enough in fighting inflation.
“We always welcome the opportunity to engage directly with our employees and work together to resolve their issues, while respecting our employees’ legal right to attempt to organize,” Maximus’ Rivera said in a statement to the Federal. Times.
“Just like many other people in America, we are still struggling, even with the salary we receive,” Jefcoat said.
More than half of all unfair labor practice charges are withdrawn or dismissed. Fees received by the NLRB have been declining since 2016.
Molly Weisner is a reporter for the Federal Times where she covers industry issues regarding the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a producer and worked at the New York Times printing office as an editor. Molly majored in Journalism and French at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.