ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With the enrollment period for health care in full swing, hundreds of workers who handle calls about Medicare and the Affordable Care Act plan to strike, including some people here in Albany.

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The workers are employed by a federal and state-contracted company named Maximus Incorporated. At least eight IT workers demonstrated before their shifts today. Tech department worker Michael Cipolla says the numbers would’ve been larger if workers did not fear retaliation. He also says the timing of the strike during the enrollment is no coincidence. 

“It was deliberate. We’re trying to slow them down. They need to know how important we are to their organization…” the IT employee told NEWS 10’s Zion Decoteau during the strike Thursday morning.

The Maximus employees are asking for more affordable healthcare, a living wage of at least 25 dollars per hour, and the ability to organize their union free from employer intimidation. 

“People are tired of struggling. Everyone should have the ability to not have to worry about every single bill…” Cipolla added.

The strikers are also requesting a hybrid working model, particularly to offset commuting costs like gasoline. Cipolla questioned why employees outside of his department who handle sensitive HIPAA-restricted information, can work from home, unlike them. 

“We’re not looking to be remote 100 percent, but we have also tons of office space that isn’t being used because all of these workers are able to work from home,” Cipolla continued.

Assemblymember Phil Stek says Maximus is one of the largest state-contracted companies and unused retail space is a waste of money.

“It’s disturbing because there’s a lot of vacant space rented by Maximus in these buildings, which is what the union tells me that indicates the state is also overpaying for these services,” said Stek.

So what’s next for these workers? “Keep making noise and strike again if we have to,” said Michael Cipollo. “Keep staging walkouts, will do what we have to do to get them to listen.”

Workers say they plan to stay on strike until at least the end of their shifts Thursday.

Assemblymember Steck also says the state, particularly Governor Kathy Hocul, should get involved to remedy the situation as Maximus is state-contracted.

Maximus responded to NEWS10’s request for comment with the following statement:

There has been a significant amount of erroneous information being distributed, misleading our employees, customers, as well as national and local leaders.  The level of false information is inappropriate and intentionally timed at the expense of 75 million Americans who are navigating open enrollment in Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. The contact centers we operate on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are the only point of contact for Americans seeking vital information about their Medicare benefits and insurance programs available through the Federal Marketplace.

The facts are that for 50 years, Maximus has successfully partnered with national, state, and local government to deliver critical health and human services to Americans. During the past five years, we have increased compensation, reduced out-of-pocket health care expenses, and improved the work environment. Maximus leads with an employee-centric focus, which is demonstrated by the employee satisfaction scores from our 2023 Global Employee Engagement Survey which is administered by a third-party, PricewaterhouseCoopers. With more than 76% of the 40,000 Maximus employees participating, 75% of surveyed employees stated they would recommend Maximus as a great place to work, up 5% from last year. Our contact center operations employees had an even higher favorable response, with 77% stating they would recommend Maximus as a great place to work.

Maximus is fully aware of and complies with union organizing and strike protections provided by the National Labor Relations Act. Our team is proud of the work we do on behalf of CMS and the millions of Americans we are privileged to serve.