AFGE, Local 3937
Local Business Meeting
May 13, 2015
Labor Temple, Seattle WA
Present were: Steve Kofahl, Carrie Kitchin-Kofahl, Laura Novakoski, Ana Rivers, Ivan Weich, Susan Campbell, Tim Roark, Ardeth Bolin and Cinthia Diaz.
The meeting was called to order at 7:00pm.
We don’t have an official full report, but Ardeth provided us with our totals used to date. We’ve used 27.5% of our overall budget, through April 2015.
Vision 2025 -
We continue to push back against Vision 2025. This year a new version has been released, but it is still primarily the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) sourced plan that we saw last year. The prior document said that SSA should follow the IRS model – while there used to be taxpayer assistance provided for free in offices all around the country, those don’t exist any longer for the most part and people now have to pay third parties for this kind of service. The IRS only has about a 40% answer rate on their calls and when they do answer, they only provide 60% accurate information. They can’t handle the workloads they have, in large part because their funding has been drastically cut over the years. The Vision 2025 plan has an attachment that contains more details than the report itself, describing how the Agency is already moving towards their vision, located in the “crosswalk” portion of the plan.
At a recent local field office staff meeting, employees asked multiple specific questions about the plan, and with virtually every answer they were told that nothing is known … about outsourcing potential, upward mobility, specialized workloads, reopening closed offices, relocating employees or other important issues related to Vision 2025. Despite the total lack of concrete details and employees’ understandable anxiety about their jobs and the quality of our service to the public, they were told it is their responsibility to stay positive.
We want employees to talk to their friends, neighbors and communities, because for the most part the public doesn’t know the details of the changes the Agency plans to make. We want them unhappy, talking to their friends, until everyone is unhappy and enough of them complain en masse to their elected officials (don’t do this at work on duty time, of course). We have successfully made a difference on various important issues in the past with this method, like when we won a temporary moratorium on office closures and the elimination of benefit verifications in field offices. People have paid into the program for their whole lives and they deserve all facets of quality service rather than being pushed into self-service on the internet or to untrained third party assistance. We are not comparable to the IRS or an on-line retailer or an ATM – our staff doesn’t sell products, they are highly trained professionals providing an invaluable service to the public.
Social Security Works conducted a Public Policy Polling survey that they published recently, where they found what percentage of people prefer to go online for various services from SSA, like getting a replacement social security card or filing for benefits. In contrast to the Agency’s public line about how these changes are being made in response to public pressure and their wishes, the vast majority wanted in-person service, including those under age 30 (somewhere around 96-97%). AFGE is not against technological advances and increases in on-line service options, but these advancements should not be instituted along with plans to significantly limit traditional field office services and personnel. We also need to enact stringent anti-fraud measures and employee oversight and quality control of on-line claims and actions.
Our Facebook page and our Local website (www.afgelocal3937.org) have more information available about Vision 2025 and our take on it, including this Public Policy Polling document and a Vison 2025 rebuttal written by AFGE Council 220’s president.
Upcoming Legislation –
Ivan recently heard a report about Fast Track by Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA – 6th district) at the Central Labor Council meeting in Kitsap. Despite Labor’s objections, he plans to vote for it, and also promised to issue a letter explaining his position on it. It’s all about driving wages as low as possible and driving work to the lowest-paid areas. This puts our democracy at risk because international tribunals will be able to rule against countries based on environmental and labor laws (like if a foreign corporation feels that our environmental law is cutting into their profits – this has already happened in Canada and Mexico through the NAFTA process). There are currently four different bills related to this, including Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and in the Senate recently an effort to consider each one independently failed.
Carrie made a motion that this evening’s LBM minutes be approved as written; Ivan seconded. Motion passed.
Carrie moved to adjourn at 8:00pm; Ardeth seconded. Motion passed.
Minutes written and submitted by Laura Novakoski, Secretary.