HATTIESBURG, Miss. — About a dozen call-center workers dressed in matching red t-shirts marched beneath the skylights over the old Cloverleaf Center food court on Wednesday to deliver a list of demands to their employer, Maximus. The company, which is housed in a section of the old mall that was once Waldoff’s department store, contracts with the federal government to handle calls about government health-care programs.
Unless Maximus agrees to meet workers’ demands, the employees plan to strike in Hattiesburg and at other locations across the county on Tuesday, Nov. 1, which is the first day of open enrollment for Affordable Care Act coverage. Maximus, which is based in Virginia, employs between 600 and 800 call-center workers throughout the year in Hattiesburg and about 10,000 across all 12 of its health-care call centers nationwide. The workers also handle calls from Medicare recipients.
“It’s very important for someone like me, someone small, to strike against a big entity and show that the magnitude of the people is powerful and we demand change,” Christina Jimenez, a single mother of three who has worked at Maximus for three years, told the Mississippi Free Press. She was sitting in the food court, where workers at the mall’s remaining Chinese and BBQ restaurants were preparing food on Wednesday.
The workers are demanding a pay raise to at least $25 an hour, up from the current minimum of $15 minimum per hour. Mississippi follows the national minimum wage law of $7.25 an hour.
“The main reason we are striking is because the wages we are paid now, we can’t live off of. Being a single mother, I can’t at all,” Jimenez said. “I get paid $15 and some change.”
In a statement to the Mississippi Free Press on Friday morning, Maximus said the company “welcomes the opportunity to work directly with our employees and discuss and hopefully resolve these concerns.”
The workers are also demanding more break time and policies regarding abusive callers. Workers said they are regularly subjected to racist, sexist and otherwise incendiary rhetoric from angry callers. In a press release Thursday, the Hattiesburg
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