Hundreds of call center workers trained to field Americans' questions about ObamaCare health insurance coverage are planning to walk off the job on the first day of Affordable Care Act open enrollment Tuesday in a protest aimed at seeking higher pay and better working conditions from their private-sector employer.
A public relations firm representing the workers said in a media advisory that more than 650 employees of Maximus, a federal contractor that operates call centers serving the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), have pledged to strike at facilities in Bogalusa, Louisiana; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; London, Kentucky; and Chester, Virginia, on Nov. 1 when "call volume drastically increases."
President Joe Biden, left, former President Barack Obama and current Vice President Kamala Harris attend an announcement at the White House on April 5, 2022, about expanding access to coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images / Getty Images)
Maximus has roughly 40,000 employees, and a spokesperson told FOX Business that the company does not expect any disruption in services on the first day of open enrollment.
The protesting workers are seeking a minimum wage of $25 per hour and at least 30 minutes of non-call time per shift, arguing that they are underpaid and need more time to "compose themselves" due to an increase in abusive callers since the pandemic began.
Maximus said employees who work eight hours can take two 15-minute rest breaks in addition to their half-hour lunch break.
According to the release announcing the strike, one worker in Hattiesburg "was subjected to sexually explicit remarks by the same caller two days in a row" and "she reported the abusive caller to her supervisor but was told nothing could be done." The public relations firm ignored multiple requests from FOX Business to interview a worker.
"While we haven’t seen evidence of a growing trend in abusive or obscene calls, we have a very clear standard operating procedure to protect our employees when we occasionally receive such call," a Maximus spokesperson said.
"If a caller is persistently inappropriate or obscene or uses derogatory or disrespectful language, our employees are empowered to immediately end the call," they explained. "They are not required to warn the abusive caller that the call is being terminated and are not required to ask their supervisor for permission to disconnect a call."
According to the press release, the workers are seeking to organize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union and have delivered their strike demands.
Maximus said in a statement that the company "respects the dignity and wellbeing" of their workers and "welcomes the opportunity to work directly with our employees and discuss and hopefully resolve their concerns."
"Over the past several years, Maximus has improved pay and compensation, reduced employees’ out-of-pocket health care expenses and improved work processes and safety," the statement continued. "We continue to look for ways to assure that Maximus is an employer of choice."