Social Security Administration (SSA) employees staged a rally at the agency’s headquarters to protest chronic understaffing, underfunding, and management’s refusal to negotiate a fair contract with the union.
Holding signs that read, “SSA Workers Deserve Dignity, Fairness & Respect!” “Proud SSA Workers, Proud to Serve America,” “Full Staffing, Full Rights Now!” and “Fair Bargaining, Fair Contract,” SSA employees gathered to shine a spotlight on the agency’s funding and personnel issues that have prevented workers from serving the American people in a timely manner.
A recent employee survey shows employees are leaving the agency within a year due understaffing, underfunding, burnout, low pay, managers micromanaging, and lack of telework opportunities. Employees reported they couldn’t do their work while also taking care of themselves and their families. It’s no surprise that 85% of workers said they know someone who’s taking medication to deal with work-related stress.
“SSA cannot serve the public without a quality workforce,” AFGE President Everett Kelley said at the rally. “It should be no surprise to any of us that despite all of the efforts of AFGE, there are growing backlogs in the field, more service delays on the 800 numbers and a long line at the field offices across the country. We’re here today to say, ‘enough is enough.’”
SSA’s workforce is at a 25-year low while the number of beneficiaries has gone up by 21% since 2010. An internal survey conducted by our union found that 4 in 10 field office SSA workers are considering leaving the agency within the next year.
According to AFGE leaders at the agency, the Social Security Administration is in crisis. These leaders cited a crisis in service delivery with woefully understaffed offices unable to keep up with the demand of caseloads and an influx of benefits applicants. They highlighted a crisis of confidence as public and media perception of a non-responsive agency snowballs. And they also told of a crisis of plummeting workforce morale as overworked, underpaid, and under-supported employees are leaving in droves continuing to plot their exit strategies.
SSA serves the most vulnerable population in our society, and we should utilize every tool to ensure they have access to services and benefits in a timely manner.
In order to help SSA become the best agency proving the best services to the American people, Council 220 First Vice President and Local 3369 President Edward Osorio said AFGE pledges to do its part, but SSA needs to meet the union halfway.
“We need a partner. We need someone on the same side because we have the same goal to serve the American people,” Osorio told the crowd. “As stated, I’m a first vice president, I’m a local president, I am a civil servant first and I am an American citizen, so my goals are to serve the American people. Is that SSA’s goal? I don’t know. I haven’t seen the evidence. I hear the words, but the actions do not match the words.”
Social Security Works Executive Director Alex Lawson joined the rally to show support for SSA workers. He called on SSA to end the funding and staffing crisis and demanded dignity and respect for the employees.
“We have always known that standing with the workers who make this system work is absolutely as important in our mission as expanding benefits for the millions of people who need them around this country,” he told AFGE members. “It’s a pleasure to be with you, unfortunately because we’re still seemingly shouting into a bunch of people who refused to listen to very common sense demands here – treat workers with dignity and respect; bargain fairly with the workers who are bargaining in good faith; give us the money that we need to provide the world-class service that everyone wants to provide.”
Also speaking at the rally were AFGE Council 215 President Rich Couture, Council 220 New York Regional Vice President and Local 2369 President Angela Digeronimo, Local 3610 Chief Steward Kenya Phillips, Metropolitan Baltimore Council AFL-CIO President Courtney Jenkins, and MD-DC AFL-CIO President Donna Edwards.
Earlier this month, AFGE Council 220 also held a virtual townhall with Social Security Works where Sen. Bernie Sanders gave opening remarks.
AFGE members braved the cold last week to call on Congress to fully fund the government and give them the 7.4% raise they deserve.
We are happy to announce that Joshua McCue from Fort Walker is AFGE’s Firefighter of the Year!