A union representing Maximus call center workers filed unfair labor practices charges against the Tysons-headquartered contractor this week.
In charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Tuesday and Wednesday (May 23 and 24), the Communications Workers of America alleges that the government services company, which operates call centers for Medicaid and Medicare, has retaliated against employees and illegally tried to discourage them from unionizing.
The CWA says it filed the complaints because Maximus is laying off more than 700 call center workers this month who handle customer service for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
At a protest organized by Call Center Workers United, which is part of the CWA, a worker who handled calls for the CDC for three years said yesterday (Thursday) that he was laid off two days before Mother’s Day despite having a “great performance record with no discipline.”
“I believe the real reason I was laid off was in retaliation for speaking out about Maximus’ working conditions, and to scare my co-workers from supporting a union. But we have a right to speak out and tell the truth, and to organize to improve our working conditions,” Daija Arrington said at the rally in D.C. outside the Department of Health and Human Services, which operates both CMS and the CDC.
The layoffs are happening less than 2 months before Maximus usually starts its annual recruitment blitz
in July🤔🤔🤔 pic.twitter.com/ZtUCGQGQmd
— Call Center Workers United (@CCWUnited) May 23, 2023
According to the charge sheet, Maximus violated federal labor laws in April and May by retaliating against employees involved in union activities by laying them off, threatening them with layoffs or worksite closures and offering severance agreements with conditions limiting their ability to talk about their experiences with the company.
The CWA also alleges that Maximus made “implied promises of benefits” to employees and forced them to attend a meeting to discourage them from unionizing.
Though the charge is tied to a call center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which has served as an organizing base for the union, the recent layoffs have affected employees across the company’s 10 centers, most of which are in the South, according to the CWA.
Another 143 workers at the Hattiesburg call center were reportedly laid off in January.
When contacted for comment by FFXnow, Maximus said that “the allegations were just made available to us,” but it is “confident that the company complied with all applicable labor requirements.”
“Given the lack of specific detail, including dates of alleged occurrence and names of workers, we are unable to respond directly to the allegations,” Maximus said in a statement. “We pride ourselves in complying with applicable labor laws across all our operations and will cooperate fully with any request from the National Labor Relations Board.” Read More
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors isn’t holding a public hearing on its proposed salary increases until Tuesday (March 21), but some county workers have already made their opposition known.
A union representing over 2,000 county government employees criticized the proposal as a blow to workers, whose projected pay raises aren’t expected to be fully funded in the county’s next budget.
“Despite our calls for wage fairness for county employees, it appears the County has another priority — raises for politicians,” SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax President Tammie Wondong said. “A meager 2% raise combined with the crushing weight of wage compression has left us feeling devalued. When employees have to work multiple jobs to get by or can’t afford to live in the county, it’s clear change is needed.”
With 33 years of work for the county under her belt, Wondong says the disparity between what the board is considering for itself compared to employees illustrates the need for “a union contract to achieve pay fairness.”
The Board of Supervisors approved collective bargaining in October 2021, but the Fire and Rescue Department is the only unit to officially elect a union representative so far.
Put forward by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust on March 7, the raises would push the salaries for board members up from $95,000 to $124,000-130,000 per year and from $100,000 to $140,000-145,000 a year for the board chair.
The high end of those ranges would amount to pay bumps of nearly 37% for supervisors and 45% for the chair. Both positions last got raises in 2015.
Foust, who’s retiring at the end of December, says higher compensation will encourage candidates to run for supervisor, a position that carries full-time commitments but is treated as a part-time job in Virginia.
As I leave, I know it is critically important that we continue to attract great candidates from all backgrounds and stages of life to serve on the Board. The opportunity to serve is itself very rewarding. However, I believe it is in the best interest of the County that Supervisor compensation be set at a level that will enable anyone to serve regardless of their personal circumstances, and not just those who are wealthy or have other sources of income. I believe that increasing Supervisor pay for the first time in 8 years will advance that goal. I recognize that others have raised concerns and I look forward to the public hearing that will be held on March 21.
“I hope that through my service I have demonstrated that I care very much about the residents and employees of Fairfax County,” he said in a statement to FFXnow.
However, the challenge of affording housing, child care and other living expenses that some supervisors mentioned during their March 7 meeting also poses an obstacle to other county workers, like teachers and police, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President David Walrod said.
About 1 in 7 Fairfax County employees can’t afford to live where they work, according to a 2021 analysis by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (TCI), a Richmond-based think tank. Read More
Workers at the regional nonprofit FRESHFARM, which operates three farmers markets in Fairfax County, voted to unionize with United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 earlier this week.
FRESHFARM worker Ariana MacMartin told FFXnow that the hope is a union can help workers at the farmers markets negotiate for better pay and more job security, as well as hopefully reduce turnover.
“We’ve asked for higher pay and better benefits, but we realized we couldn’t affect change without a union,” MacMartin said.
MacMartin said the specific demands are still in negotiation.
The unionization effort includes about 25 workers who staff and operate FRESHFARM’s 28 markets in the D.C. area, including sites at the Mosaic District, Reston and Oakton, according to UFCW Local 400.
Employees filed for a union election in December. Ballots were distributed on Jan. 18, and National Labor Relations Board officials counted votes on Feb. 8.
While other workers have had to fight tooth and nail for unionization, MacMartin said FRESHFARM has been an extremely agreeable partner in the process.
In a statement, FRESHFARM said:
FRESHFARM is pleased to announce that our farmers market staff have voted to unionize. The organization strives to create the best farmers markets in the region, and having a professional, well-trained workforce is front and center of these efforts. FRESHFARM management is enthusiastic about working with a collective bargaining unit committed to our mission and shared values of improving our workers’ conditions to ensure we continue to best serve our region.
MacMartin said her hope is that the negotiations and improvements can help inspire other farmers market workers.
“I want to unionize every farmers market,” MacMartin said. “My hope is our message spreads to strengthen the working class and we can have our needs met.”
Fairfax County’s teacher unions expressed relief after new state-proposed history standards were rejected by a governor-appointed board late last week.
On Thursday evening (Nov. 17), Virginia’s Board of Education voted unanimously to again delay approving new history standards drafted by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).
The proposed standards had numerous admitted mistakes, errors and typos, and was radically changed from a 400-page working draft first publicly released over the summer.
The new document was also significantly shorter. A longer “framework” document which will include information on how to teach the material will be released next summer, per the Washington Post.
“We are pleased to see that the Board of Education has heard the voices of teachers, students, parents, and community activists,” Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) President David Walrod said. “The draft of standards presented [Thursday] was hastily assembled, with multiple new versions being released in a matter of days.”
Among the most discussed changes in the draft standards were omissions of both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth as holidays. They also described Virginia’s indigenous peoples as America’s “first immigrants,”
The draft also eliminated racism in America as a central theme to be taught in many grades, while removing instances of teaching students about culture and government outside Europe and the U.S.
The board’s rejection came after a four-hour public hearing where a number of speakers, including Walrod, called the new standards a “whitewashing” of history.
Union President @dpwalrod tells Virginia Board of Education Members NO to the whitewashing of our social studies standards! pic.twitter.com/aemiGGVnzY
— Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (@FCFTcares) November 18, 2022
The VDOE first released this draft less than a week before the board was scheduled to vote on it, leading members to complain about the short timeframe for reviewing such large changes.
The approval had already been postponed from August after a previous draft was similarly riddled with mistakes and errors. That draft was also about 400 pages long, compared to the 57-page document this time around. Read More
Firefighters, medics and other Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department employees will have a union represent them in the county’s first collective bargaining negotiations for public workers in over 40 years.
Over 800 FCFRD workers participated in a 13-day election last month to determine whether to have union representation for contract talks with the county government, which will establish pay, benefits and other working conditions.
The only union in contention, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2068 won with a decisive 797 votes, or 95.2%. The only other option on the ballot was to have no representation, which received 40 votes, the union announced Friday (Nov. 18).
With 1,533 members, Local 2068 represents firefighters, fire marshals, mechanics, medics and emergency dispatchers employed by Fairfax County. 837 eligible voters — 54.6% — cast a ballot in the election from Oct. 12-31.
“This is a monumental day for the members of our department,” IAFF 2068 President Robert Young said in a news release. “But it’s also a monumental day for all Fairfax County employees, and all of the residents of our community. We’ve shown that when Fairfax County workers come together…we have the power to have a say in the decisions that impact our lives and the lives of the communities we serve.”
Last week our Election for Bargaining Representation was officially certified – Local 2068 won with over 95% of the vote (!!!)
Huge shoutout to the members of our department who voted – we look forward to negotiating/working w/ the County – Full media adv. attached#UnionStrong pic.twitter.com/MYwts1QdEd
— Fairfax Firefighters (@IAFF2068) November 20, 2022
After Virginia ended a 44-year ban on collective bargaining for public sector workers in May 2021, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance on Oct. 19, 2021 granting employees the right to organize, elect union representatives and participate in union activities.
Under the ordinance, the county will recognize separate bargaining units for the fire department, police and other county workers. Elections haven’t been held yet for the police and general government units.
With negotiations expected to begin in early 2023, Local 2068 says one priority will be addressing the staffing shortages that have affected the fire department and other county agencies, from police to the park authority and public library system.
Local 2068 says first responders have been forced to work mandatory overtime, adding 12 to 24 hours on top of their standard 24-hour shift “sometimes with little to no notice.” The union says its members have performed over 80,000 hours of “holdovers” — equal to 3,333 24-hour days.
“Having members work such excessive mandatory overtime isn’t just bad for their health, but it’s a potential hazard for the community members we serve,” Young said. “We look forward to addressing this issue at the bargaining table.”
Collective bargaining negotiations will last up to November 2023. A resulting agreement won’t take effect until July 1, 2024, when the county’s fiscal year 2025 begins.
Some issues could be addressed earlier as part of the upcoming fiscal year 2024 budget process, which will begin in earnest when County Executive Bryan Hill presents his proposed plan on Feb. 21.
Young said Local 2068 will advocate for merit and cost of living pay increases as well as funding for automated ambulance loaders — stretchers where the legs automatically fold up as the device is rolled into a vehicle.
“We’re the only jurisdiction in the region that doesn’t have access to these tools, tools that not only help prevent members from being injured, but also help us deliver faster and safer service to the community,” Young said.
The first union election that Fairfax County employees have been allowed to hold in over four decades is now underway.
With an election for representation that launched Monday (Oct. 10), firefighters, medics, fire marshals and other Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department workers will determine whether the union IAFF Local 2068 can represent them in upcoming contract negotiations with the county government.
Voting is being conducted electronically through the independent company BallotPoint and will continue until Oct. 31, according to IAFF Local 2068, which has a membership of approximately 1,500 FCFRD employees.
“Our department is filled with intelligent, highly qualified and highly trained people,” IAFF Local 2068 President Robert Young said in the news release. “We’re first responders who love our jobs, love serving the Fairfax community, and want to continue to ensure that we are providing the best fire and medical emergency services possible. Bargaining allows us to do just that, while also ensuring that the concerns of our members and our community are heard and treated equitably.”
Earlier today we issued the following Media Advisory re our Collective Bargaining Election –
“At the end of the day, this is about creating an equitable and collaborative relationship..We’re happy to have the overwhelming support of the community who made this possible.”#ffxva pic.twitter.com/ec5p5q0Vzh
— Fairfax Firefighters (@IAFF2068) October 10, 2022
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a collective bargaining ordinance on Oct. 19, 2021, giving county government employees the power to have a union negotiate their pay, benefits and working conditions for the first time in more than 40 years.
Public sector workers had been barred from collective bargaining in Virginia since the state Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the General Assembly could prohibit the practice. The court cited the Dillon Rule that limits local governments’ powers and has become a source of frustration in Fairfax County.
Localities finally got the authority to adopt ordinances recognizing labor unions and giving employees the ability to collectively bargain in May 2021, when a bill passed by state lawmakers and signed by then-governor Ralph Northam in 2020 took effect.
Under its approved ordinance, Fairfax County will recognize separate bargaining units representing general county employees, the fire department, and police, an approach that some workers’ groups had opposed.
Since no other unions have been accepted for firefighters, the only options in the current election are to approve Local 2068 as the bargaining unit or “no one,” organizer Jeremy McClayton told FFXnow by email.
General county employees and the police will hold their own elections. They both have multiple unions vying to serve as their bargaining unit, according to McClayton.
Fairfax County Public Schools has yet to grant collective bargaining rights to its employees, though a resolution for the school board to adopt is being developed.
On the county side, the Board of Supervisors confirmed Sarah Miller Espinosa as its labor relations administrator on June 7. The administrator serves as a neutral party tasked with establishing union election procedures, overseeing negotiations, and mediating disputes.
If Local 2068 wins, the union will begin contract negotiations with the county in the spring.
Young said in the press release that, with collective bargaining, the union hopes to create “an equitable and collaborative relationship” between workers and the county.
“It’s about ensuring that all of our employees are heard, that they’re all a part of the decision making process, and that they all have a sense of ownership of their careers and lives,” Young said. “We’re happy to have the overwhelming support of our elected officials, and all the members of the Fairfax community who made this election for representation possible.”
Starbucks Workers Vote Down Union — “A streak of unionizing at Starbucks has been broken, with workers at a store in Springfield, Virginia, voting against the union.” [NPR, Twitter]
Last Day for Donations — The donation drive to help Ukrainians that the Northern Virginia Regional Commission organized is coming to an end today. Donations can be dropped off in locations in Fairfax County, Alexandria, Arlington and other locations. [Twitter]
Homes are Hot in Dunn Loring — “The Dunn Loring area was the hottest in the Sun Gazette’s Fairfax County coverage area in terms of home-buyer interest over the past month, according to new data.” [Sun Gazette]
Clean Up a Tysons Roadway — “The Great Falls Group @SierraClub will pick up litter & debris on 1.32 miles of Jones Branch Dr, Tysons Corner. Come out to meet & mingle with other Club members, & help clean up a roadway! Litter bags will be provided.” Pickup is on Saturday, 4/23, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. [Twitter]
County Wants Input on Connector Changes — “Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a virtual community input meeting, Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at 7 p.m on Fairfax Connector proposed service changes for October 2022. The public is encouraged to give feedback on the proposed changes via an online survey (survey begins Wednesday, April 20, 2022), email, mail and by phone through May 6, 2022.” [Fairfax County Government]
First County Poet Laureate Tenure Ends — “#FairfaxCounty, it’s been an honor to be your first poet laureate. I wrote this poem to mark the end of my tenure and delivered it at tonight’s Board meeting. Thanks for trusting me to serve, @artsfairfax !” [Twitter]
It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 47. Sunrise at 6:33 a.m. and sunset at 7:47 p.m. [Weather.gov]