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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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Colleges see big drop in foreign-language enrollment; Kentucky advocates say it's time to bury medical debt; Young Farmers in Michigan hope the new farm bill will include key benefits regarding land access.

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The White House presses for supplemental Ukraine aid. Leaders condemn antisemitic attacks during Gaza ceasefire protests. Despite concerns about the next election, one Arizona legal expert says courts generally side with voters and democracy.

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Congress has iced the Farm Bill, but farmer advocates argue some portions are urgent, the Hoosier State is reaping big rewards from wind and solar, and opponents react to a road through Alaska's Brooks Range, long a dream destination for hunters and anglers.

MS Call Center Workers Want Better Healthcare, Wages, Union

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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.

Disclosure: Communications Workers of America contributes to our fund for reporting on Human Rights/Racial Justice, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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