News : Union: Federal Contractor Underpaying Call Center Workers
Hattiesburg, MS, USA, Feb, 2018 -- A union says a federal contractor is underpaying workers at 11 call centers nationwide because it's misclassifying employees.
The Communications Workers of America wants the U.S. Labor Department to investigate the arm of government contractor General Dynamics Corp.
The call centers answer questions and help sign up people for Medicare and federally-subsidized health insurance. WDAM-TV reports as many as 2,000 people work at the Hattiesburg center.
The union filed the complaint even though workers haven't elected the CWA to represent them, although some of the workers would like to join the union.
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General Dynamics spokesman Mark Meudt says the company is routinely reviewed by the Labor Department and takes its obligations seriously.
"Our call center employees are not represented by the Communications Workers of America and it is not empowered to act on behalf of our call center employees," Meudt wrote in an email. "We value our people and the work that they perform."
The union says employees qualify for higher wages because of job duties and training, as mandated under a federal law called the Service Contract Act. The union says there's "an extensive pattern of misclassification of workers" at General Dynamics. The union estimates Virginia-based General Dynamics owes employees $107 million, and asks regulators to order back wages paid.
"I've had two rounds of extensive training to get to my current job. It's a lot responsibility and a lot of work," Hattiesburg worker Adrian Powe said. "But I'm being paid at a much lower rate. I'm being cheated, and the federal government must hold GDIT accountable. GDIT needs to follow the contract it agreed to."
Powe makes $9.64 an hour, but said he should make $11 to $12 an hour. He's among workers who traveled to Washington last week to meet with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, to discuss the issue.
"We want the government to enforce the law," CWA General Counsel Jody Calemine said in a statement. "We're asking the Department of Labor for an enterprise-wide investigation, to make sure all workers are paid what they're owed at all 11 call centers covered by this contract."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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