AFGE, Local 3937
Local Business Meeting
March 12, 2014
Labor Temple, Seattle WA
Present were: Steve Kofahl, Carrie Kitchin-Kofahl, Laura Novakoski, Ivan Weich, Ana Rivers, Ardeth Bolin, Susan Campbell, Tim Roark, Cassandra Lovick.
The meeting was called to order at 7:10pm.
At the beginning of the 2014 year, our total assets were $222,259.29. At our May meeting Ardeth will bring a final 2013 report; she’s preparing our DOL and IRS report and audits currently. Last year we worked on transitioning out of KeyBank and cashed in two of the CDs, transferring them into checking. We moved money to the Sound Credit Union when we opened those accounts. We’ve used about 15% of our budget so far this year so we are in good shape.
We received a request from the WA Fair Trade Coalition asking that we renew our membership with a $100 contribution; we have supported them for several years and this is the amount we sent last year. It is a group of labor and community organizations with a strong interest in trade agreements. They have concerns with these agreements because they often lose us jobs and can destroy the local economy (as happened with NAFTA). There are ramifications for people and for the environment; for SSA, it’s possible that any of our workloads that don’t involve face-to-face contact could be shipped abroad which explains our interest in and support of this organization. We are aware that in the past the idea was raised of having teleservice center business performed from the prisoner population; and this year we heard about a proposal to eliminate all Field Offices and Teleservice Centers by 2025 … so trade agreements could and do have an immediate relevance to our work. The state of WA DSHS already has their 1-800# answered overseas. Ardeth made a motion that we make a contribution of $100; Carrie seconded. Motion passed.
Susan, at the ATSC, attended a meeting recently with Gail Leon, the Deputy Regional Commissioner, where the benefits of new technology for SSA were explored. She explained that an iClaims applicant could access an interactive chat session to have their questions answered while they attempt to complete their forms. To us, for a member of the public having trouble understanding the questions, this sounds a lot like having a Service Rep handle the interview, so we’re coming full circle. The Agency has still not done a comprehensive report of the (in)accuracy rate of self-completed internet claims and the necessity for recontact.
Ivan reports that the WA State Labor Council met on February 6 in Olympia, WA for their annual Legislative Conference. They discussed bringing issues to our legislators such as raising the minimum wage, adding 5 days of paid sick leave annually, and closing a loophole in the Affordable Care Act that now allows employers to artificially limit employee schedules to avoid paying for healthcare. This forces the employee onto Medicaid rolls, paid for by taxpayers.
He also reports that in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) there is now only one administrative law judge left for the Pacific Northwest region. Local unions have pushed Congress to provide funding for additional judges. We also need to fund the positions to be more competitive with other agencies. We now see a wait time of about 2½ years for a complaint to be heard.
The annual AFGE Legislative Conference took place in Washington, DC in February. Tim Roark, Gabriela Rodriguez, Ivan Weich, Monica Rodgers and Steve Kofahl all attended to receive training and to meet with our elected representatives. They focused mainly on the closure of local offices and the reduction in services and office hours. There was a relevant bill that was introduced, HR 3997, that would require the Agency to follow a number of procedural steps before closing an office. They would be required to hold at least two public meetings for input before a closure was decided, to justify any decision to close using a cost-benefit analysis, as well as to present a plan to mitigate the impact on the public. The Agency has closed about 1500 contact stations in the past 7-8 years, and many field offices, with questionable rationale and very little transparency. Our legislative coordinators were able to visit almost every congressional office, but missed some due to weather-related closures.
The National Academy of Public Administration, in response to a request by SSA management, put out a 2025 Long-Range Vision and Strategic Plan that calls for a tremendous move to internet and self-service. The Academy was established in 1967 and chartered by Congress in 1984 as a non-profit, independent organization of top public management who tackle the nation’s most critical and complex public management challenges. The Agency is looking at auto-service for internet claims and SSN issuance (with no employee oversight at all). There seems to be very little that hasn’t been cued up for internet self-service. At the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) convention this year, AFGE’s National President J. David Cox and other top Union officials will be putting together a plan to challenge this type of report. We will be promoting the unbeatable quality of personalized service, and how it can avoid payment and benefit errors that cheat people out of their benefits. SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin will also attend the convention. Ana reports that the WA Community Action Network (WACAN), one of our top community organizers in the state of Washington, would definitely support our efforts in this area and she will forward this information to them. We will put out an alert to our bargaining employees about this growing threat to public service and to their jobs.
Carrie made a motion that this evening’s LBM minutes be approved as read and amended; Ivan seconded. Motion passed.
Ana moved to adjourn at 8:10pm. Motion passed.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski, Secretary.