This undated photo shows Maximus call center workers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, picketing during a strike. (Courtesy of Communications Workers of America)
Mass layoffs this week at the Maximus federal call centers in Louisiana and Mississippi prompted workers to protest at both locations Friday.
The call center workers are calling for the immediate rehire of their laid-off colleagues or at least eight weeks of severance pay.
Maximus is the nation’s largest federal call center contractor with primary sites located in Bogalusa and Hattiesburg. Its workers answer the toll-free lines for the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) programs such as the Affordable Care Act marketplace and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) information line.
According to a news release from the organizing employees, the layoffs terminated 143 workers in Hattiesburg last week and more than 100 in Bogalusa on Tuesday with the company offering no severance pay.
Maximus spokesperson Sean O’Leary shared a company statement that said Maximus has been experiencing low employee attrition rates that have led to a staffing surplus. As a result, the company released approximately 100 workers from the Bogalusa call center based on tenure and schedule.
“Whenever we make staffing decisions, we make it a priority to treat all of our people with respect and sensitivity,” the statement said. “That is why we are coordinating with other Maximus programs where remote positions may be available for impacted employees. We also will ensure that we consider these employees for other hiring needs if additional staff is required in the future.”
The workers planned to protest for an hour from noon to 1 p.m. outside the call centers. It is the latest of several protests and strikes they have held in the past two years as they continue to seek the chance to unionize.
Prior to the layoffs, the Bogalusa office employed between 600-700 people, and the Hattiesburg office employed 930. Nationwide, Maximus employs more than 10,000 people — nearly double the entire CMS workforce. Statistics from the career research firm Zippia indicate that approximately 68% of Maximus employees are women with an average yearly salary of about $35,000. An overwhelming majority of the workers in Bogalusa and Hattiesburg are women of color, according to a previous news release promoting their August strike.
Correction: Protesting workers are calling for eight weeks of severance pay. A previous version of this article contained information from a press release that was later updated after publication of this piece.
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