Local Business Meeting
To All Members:
AFGE Local 3937's website will notify members of the time and place of the next scheduled Local Business Meeting. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Local Business Meetings are being held via Zoom video call. Please log in as a member to obtain the meeting access information under the Member Resources tab at left, Member Home page on the dropdown menu. JOIN US for important updates regarding your Union and your workplace.
Not yet a member? Click to get started here (details at left): https://join.afge.org/
When: Wednesday, March 8th, 5:30 - 6:30 PST
Call Info: (on Member Home page - log in; or apply to log in after we confirm membership)
When meetings are held at the ATSC, remember that it is a secure building, so have your PIV card and check in with the guard at the front entrance, then come on through to our conference room.
What: All AFGE members are encouraged to attend and participate in our meetings, and to bring any topics to the floor for discussion with your Local officers.
We will inform members when we plan to resume in-person or hybrid meetings. When meetings are held in person, they are normally in the evening in an ATSC conference room - we look forward to seeing you there!PausedPaused
AFGE 2019 Legislative Conference
AFGE Local3937 representatives returned home from the 2019 AFGE Legislative Conference in February with some good news!
Congress passed and the President signed a spending bill for the rest of the government. This bill provides a 1.9% raise for employees retroactive to the start of calendar year 2019, which we should see reflected in our paychecks soon.
Congress took note of management’s hostile actions during contract bargaining and the House Appropriations Committee is awaiting an answer from SSA Acting Commissioner Nancy Berryhill.
Our Second Vice-President John Pfannenstein, Secretary Laura Novakoski, local representative and Executive Board intern Nicole Carrier-Theulen, and retired delegate Monica Rodgers participated in preparatory meetings and training with other Council 220 members, then spread out at the Capitol to represent the interests of our employees and educate legislators about Social Security concerns and the kind of service we want to provide to the public. We met with as many of our congressional representatives, senators or their staff as possible, and distributed information packets, at almost 30 offices. Since our Local represents the entirety of Region 10 with 4 states (Alaska, Idaho, Washington and Oregon), that’s a lot of walking and talking!
Following is a summary of the issues we discussed during our meetings:
Budget and Staffing
- From 2010 to 2018, our field offices have lost 12% of their staff, a net loss of almost 1700 employees. Lobby wait times have doubled during the same period due to the staffing shortage. The public is adversely impacted by our inability to respond to their needs in a timely manner. Some issues require more than one visit, and those who need to take time off work or who find it difficult to wait an hour or more in our offices for assistance (due to caring for or waiting with children, to age or infirmity) are especially affected. We appreciated the allocation of funding for field services for our 2019 budget, but too much of it was routed towards IT infrastructure, and too little towards direct public service and staffing. The 2020 budget must include line-item allocations of staff funding for field offices, hearing offices and payment centers. SSA needs to focus on hiring more support staff and lower-graded positions, to free time for higher-graded representatives to process the more complex work timely and efficiently.
- Hearings offices nationwide currently experience high backlogs. Without sufficient support staff like case technicians, paralegals, and decision writers, claimants are waiting 500-600 days on average for their case to be heard by an administrative law judge. Many applicants, whose conditions have significantly worsened, die during this waiting period.
- In order to even begin to address these struggles, our agency needs to be fully funded. Additional monies should be set aside solely for front-line employee hiring and training, so that we may resume our mission to provide the services our public has already paid for throughout their working lives. We serve an additional 1 million beneficiaries each year, so the budget needs to grow as well.
- Fair pay and staff retention. Since 2011, federal pay has lagged far behind inflation, leaving the adjusted value of salaries lower and lower. Congress should recognize that federal employees, more than any other group of Americans, bore the brunt of budget austerity and deficit reduction strategies that followed the Great Recession and have suffered losses totaling $246 billion in compensation cuts as a result. As a part of the bill ending the latest government shutdown, civilian federal employees were given a 1.9% raise, which is better than zero but didn’t even achieve pay parity with military federal employees. For 2020, AFGE is asking that Congress support a 3.6% overall adjustment (H.R. 1073 / S. 426 – FAIR Act of 2020). It would not restore the losses of the 3-year pay freeze and subsequent miniscule 1-2% increases. However, years of stagnant and falling inflation-adjusted wages, added to the stresses of struggling to meet expanding workloads with less staff, has led many workers to leave the agency.
- Avoid austerity cuts to employee compensation. Tied into our solid reasons for increasing wages as stated above, we strongly oppose the proposed elimination of the Federal Employee Retirement (FERS) defined benefit and the FERS Supplemental, as well as any measure that raises healthcare premiums or converts FEHBP into a voucher.
- SSA has been in national contract bargaining with AFGE, and despite several months of legitimate progress on the selected articles, the agency suddenly decided they’re done with negotiation and mediation, and have requested the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) take over the process. This is a heavily stacked body, where 7 of the 9 members were appointed by a Republican and are very unlikely to side with Labor. It is an inherently unfair system, and we encourage members of Congress to follow Representative Rosa DeLauro’s example to strongly encourage Commissioner Berryhill to send her team back to the table.
- President Trump’s Executive Orders of May 2018 were invalidated by a federal judge in August, but their spirit lives on in SSA’s regressive, anti-employee contract proposals that would gut civil service protections. It is apparent that the Agency wants to achieve at the bargaining table what they could not by EOs, and if management gets their way it will be a blank check to discriminate and will significantly worsen morale and open the door even wider for even long-time, dedicated employees to choose a different career path or to elect retirement.
- From 2012 through 2018, SSA received 67,526 allegations of MySSA account fraud, resulting in only 27 investigations, and 19 convictions. Victims of MySSA fraud can experience undue hardship if their payments are redirected into a different bank account, and may be especially susceptible to identity theft when their personally identifiable information is compromised. The Agency must do better to safeguard the integrity of the sensitive data housed in our online portals.
- Anomalous and Unauthenticated claims have increased. Although the Agency has not released the statistics, field offices and teleservice centers have been recently encountering a dramatic increase of “anomalous claims” and a new category of online filing problems called “unauthenticated claims.” We requested a congressional inquiry into both the troubling rise of online fraud, and the questionable procedures SSA has adopted to close out what may be valid claims without proper notification.
There is additional information on these and other important issues at AFGE’s SSA Field Operations Council 220 webpage and at AFGE’s national webpage.
IMPORTANT: This information should not be downloaded using government equipment, read during duty time or sent to others using government equipment, if it suggests action to be taken in support of or against legislation. Do not use your government email address or government phone if you wish to contact your Member of Congress.
Local 3937 President Emeritus: Steve Kofahl
AFGE Local 3937 voted at our Local Business Meeting in March 2019 to name Steve Kofahl as lifetime President Emeritus for our Local. He served as Local President for many years, and even after his retirement, he has continued to be very available to the membership to our officers with his experience and his mentoring energy. He has moved on to help AFGE National as Retiree Coordinator and has remained active in Washington state and nationally with legislative issues that support Social Security, federal employees and retirees.
Cassandra Butler Wins 2018 Outstanding Service in Community Award
We are as strong as the people in our community. That’s why every three years at our convention, our union recognizes a member who has done an outstanding job being an advocate for his or her local community. This year, the A. Philip Randolph-Hubert H. Humphrey Award is presented to Cassandra Butler, who exemplifies the volunteer spirit both in and outside work.
Besides balancing her assignment as a full-time Social Security Administration employee and her many union duties, everywhere she goes, Cassandra is always looking for ways to help those in need in her community. And those in need are often young, homeless people who do not have any type of support system to help them deal with difficult situations like drug addiction, pregnancies, mental illness, and domestic violence.
When Cassandra began working as a claims representative in the SSA Spokane field office in 2006, she worked for 10 years with pregnant and parenting homeless young women at Alexandria’s House through the Volunteers of America. On top of her full-time job, she spent 40 hours a week helping these young mothers learn the basic skills needed to be a good parent, get through school, and get employed.
When she moved to Seattle in August 2015 with a promotion to Quality Review Analyst at the Office of Quality Review, it didn’t take long for her to locate new volunteer opportunities. In January 2016, she began working with homeless young adults at a group-home style transitional community residence called Friends of Youth in Kirkland, Washington. Her volunteer work involved working one-on-one with these young people to prepare them to live on their own. To get to the residence, Cassandra had to commute more than two hours each way on top of a 30-40 hour per week schedule that included overnight shifts. Her level of commitment and caring is inspiring.
At the end of 2016, Cassandra made a change to another Friends of Youth facility called The Landing, an emergency shelter for young people in need. A year later, the Landing recognized her dedication and skills by offering her a paid position as program coordinator.
Cassandra found that helping people in her community actually helps make her a better federal employee. Both organizations she has been involved in are very connected to SSA as a lot of these young homeless people receive Supplemental Security Income because of their poverty and disability, including mental illness.
“It really kind of helps me to see the full scope of who we help and how early on SSA has an impact in young people’s lives and how important it is for the SSA system to stay right here and be available for these young people,” she said.
Asked what inspired her to help these young people, Cassandra said she herself became a mom at a young age and so she understands their struggles. Besides, her parents and brother in-law are social workers.
“I paid very close attention to the community that my children were growing up in and paid very close attention to what resources were available and what things were lacking for families and decided I was going to start to help to make that better. And moving to Seattle, the homeless crisis over here is even worse,” she explained.
Cassandra joined our union 12 years ago when she first started working at SSA after talking to a union rep who was really excited about the work of our union. She got more involved over the years and is currently serving as the executive vice president for Local 3937 and a regional vice president for Council 224.
Congratulations, Cassandra, for winning this well-deserved award! You are an inspiration to us all!
AFGE .org Latest Content Connection Failure: This usually happens when the news feed URL is entered incorrectly.
DISCLAIMER: This is not a Government Hosted Website and portions of the website cannot be viewed on a Government Computer System, or during working hours, such as, but not limited to, the Political Links. AFGE does not promote illegal use of Government Computer Systems. Be aware of what you are viewing during work hours.