MS Call Center Workers Want Better Healthcare, Wages, Union
Friday, September 8, 2023
As the open-enrollment period for people who need health insurance fast approaches, some Mississippi workers are threatening to walk the picket line.
They handle tens of millions of questions about the Affordable Care Act and Medicare at the Maximus Call Center in Hattiesburg. The open-enrollment period will be critical for those who may have lost their Medicaid coverage when the pandemic officially ended.
Denotra Clayton, a dual-agent customer service representative for Maximus and the Communications Workers of America, said she was part of a Thursday rally demanding that Maximus provide affordable health benefits and job security, along with better balance between work and home life.
"The demands that we are predicting for the increase in pay - hourly rates, more respect, more leeway, more time for even to use the bathroom, for breaks," she said. "And if, basically, Maximus doesn't meet our need for better pay, then we will strike again."
She noted that workers have walked off the job several other times, adding that the customer service agents are predominantly Black and Latina women. They're asking for a pay rate of $25 an hour, up from the starting pay of $16.
Maximus was awarded a $6.6 billion contract last year to handle calls and questions about the federal insurance marketplace.
The union has claimed that Maximus recently laid off 800 workers. Clayton alleged that the company has used what some see as "intimidation tactics" to try to keep people from striking, by offering bonus pay on the first day of the strike.
"I stand up for the CWA and I am definitely participating to join a union, to make a better workplace," she said. "So of course, I'm going to go on strike to demand these better means, these better pays, less micromanagement. Of course, I'm going to do that."
Clayton said she can't speak for her coworkers, but has encouraged them to learn more. She added that most would need more than one day of bonus pay to continue to provide for their families.
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