Protests erupt after 100 laid off at Maximus in Chester

Monday morning, workers, former workers and others stood outside of Maximus in Chester, to protest for higher pay and protection from being suddenly laid off.
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 6:39 PM EDT
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CHESTER, Va. (WWBT) - Monday morning, Maximus workers, former workers and others stood outside the Chester building to protest for higher pay and protection from sudden layoffs.

These demonstrations come after the second round of layoffs from the company. 100 people were laid off from the Chester location, and 700 were laid off between all 10 company sites.

Some Maximus employees were laid off over the phone and given 2 weeks’ notice.

“That makes your heart sink into your stomach,” said Wanda Freeland, who was laid off from Maximus in May.

Maximus is a call center for health care questions. Employees help people understand Medicare and Federal Marketplace Systems to get the right healthcare. Freeland worked at Maximus for 3 and a half years until she was suddenly laid off. She said she talked to and helped nearly 80 people a day during her 8-hour shifts.

“I valued my job, especially working with the older crowd and Medicare. It was the best.,” she said.

Freeland is worried customers may not get the same attention as before the layoffs.

“There are people in there that are taking up the slack, so to speak, for the people, the hundreds of people that got laid off,” she said. “They’re probably barely able to take a breath in between phone calls right now because they don’t have as many people to take phone calls and assist.”

The VP of PR and Communications at Maximus sent a statement to NBC12 regarding the layoffs:

“There are very few people participating in the protest organized by CWA. It is important to note that this is not a strike because Maximus does not have any unions. Our employees are engaged and motivated to deliver high-quality customer service to millions of Americans. Our most recent employee engagement survey shows that 84% of our employees plan to stay with the company for at least another 12 months. Today’s action did not impact or disrupt Maximus operations.”

The VP said the layoffs were because there were too many employees for the call volume at this time. Each laid-off employee can reapply, but they’d have to start over as a new hire.

“How did it make me feel?” asked Zubaidah Brown. “Lost when I shouldn’t have been laid off if I get to come back next month, open enrollment.” Brown was also laid off from Maximus in May.

Former and current employees said they feel the working conditions aren’t fair.

“Going to the restroom, you’re timed, and if you go over six minutes, you’re on approved leave,” said Freeland.

They’re also pushing to earn $25 versus the current $17.11.

“The wealth of knowledge that we have, the value they’ve put on our work, is not. We deserve much more than that, than the dollar amount they’ve put on us,” said James Weir, a Maximus employee.

Another protest is planned for June 17 at Maximus’ headquarters in Fairfax.