Riverview, FL – On November 9, around 60 Maximus call center workers, Communications Workers of America (CWA) members, and community supporters picketed in front of the Maximus call center in Riverview, Florida. The one-day strike called by CWA took place at Maximus calling centers around the country, and advanced demands for $25 an hour, affordable healthcare and an end to anti-union tactics.
“We’re asking for $25 an hour. We’re not asking them to break the bank. They’re making millions out of us,” said Katherine Charles, who has been with the company for nine years. Maximus is a multi-billion dollar federal contractor providing services for Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. The CEO of Maximus, Bruce Caswell, received over $6 million from the company last year, 161 times more than the average call center employee.
The pay discrepancy between Caswell and the workers was felt sharply by those in attendance when two employees shared that they are currently homeless. “I worked at this location for a year and a half, and we were laid off with no warning, even though we were regular full-time employees, and I lost my literal home because of that,” Gabrielle Scurry told the crowd. In June, the Maximus workers went on a one-day strike in response to these layoffs.
61-year-old Mae Best, who is also experiencing homelessness, said, “We have a crisis. It’s not just a local crisis, it’s a national crisis.” Best expressed to the crowd that “now is the time” to organize through this crisis. “People are suffering, people are hungry, people are homeless,” she said.
One of the biggest demands for workers at Maximus is for affordable healthcare, especially considering they work for a company that provides such healthcare in the first place. Employee Steven Mcleary III observed, “It’s quite embarrassing that our healthcare is such shit for a company that handles Medicare and Marketplace. I want to tell everyone ‘I wish I had your insurance’ when I’m on those calls.”
The workers at the Maximus location in Riverview are not currently unionized but are actively seeking to organize despite pushback from the company. CWA shared that Maximus recently called the cops on employees in Florida for simply having a conversation about organizing a union. This union-busting tactic seeks to scare workers from their right to organize, but the workers on the picket line made it clear that they are more afraid of what is at stake if they do not unionize.
“I’m here today, I’ve been with this company nine years and I know I can get fired within the next 30 minutes. I would rather get fired fighting, teaching my children that they’re not supposed to be taking the crap that this company is putting us through and if they fire me because I’m doing this, I’m going to go out fighting and happy because I am making a better future for my kids,” Charles expressed.
With workers striking in Florida, New York, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia, November 9 marks the largest strike in Maximus history. As Charles said, the workers “want to unionize and we won’t stop until we get it.”