Lunch and Learn Script
Brothers and sisters, welcome to the Local ____ Lunch and Learn. Feel free to help yourselves to lunch and please sign in on the sign in sheet. We need your private e-mail address and cell phone number so that we can communicate with you regarding future ongoing issues that affect SSA and federal employees.
Today we are here to talk about some of those issues.
Let me ask you a few questions:
- Do you think that Congress is providing enough budget resources to SSA so that we can have enough staff to properly service the public?
- Do you agree with the emphasis on serving the public primarily through the internet?
- Do you feel that you are able to do your job effectively in a stress free work environment?
- Do you think that your office is a safe place to work?
- Do you feel that your pay, benefits and civil service protections are safe?
- Are you concerned about the future of SSA?
Your answers are similar to those of employees in other offices where we asked the same questions. SSA is facing a lot of threats:
- Staffing cuts
- Office closings
- Workloads that are almost impossible to complete
- Unrealistic expectations from management
- Poor public service
- Coercing the public to do their SSA business on the internet due to staff constraints
- An increasingly hostile public
- Frustration because we don’t have a strategy to improve our work life.
- Disappointment and concern over political attacks against SSA & federal employees.
Does anyone other than employees like you have better ideas on how we can provide the best service to the public while optimizing working conditions? Of course not! We work in the trenches every day and know what has caused service to deteriorate and know what needs to be done to change that. Customers need to know that they can expect good, prompt and professional service at their community based SSA office and the SSA 800 #. That’s why we are presenting to the public a campaign to establish a customer bill of rights.
(Pass out copies of bill of rights)
What’s the Customer Bill of Rights?
SSA has been reducing service to customers in recent years due to staff cuts and technological problems. SSA has closed 70 offices and over 500 contact stations eliminating the face-to-face interview option for many. SSA coerces the public to do their business online. Even when the public wants face-to-face service, they are directed to self-help computers. Many appointment requests either can’t be accommodated or are scheduled far into the future. Employees are pressured to complete interviews quickly so they can service another customer in a full waiting room.
This bill of rights is intended to establish a baseline of expectations for the public. We can demand that Congress pass enough of an administrative budget so we can provide appropriate public service, and that the Agency can hire enough staff and organize the work so that the public can choose how they want to do business with SSA: face-to-face, phone or internet.
We also will need to reassure the public that their info (PI) is secure and that SSA won’t be complicit in improper disclosure of their private info (Equifax scandal).
Achieving this Bill of Rights will not be easy. We are facing attacks all the time regarding SSA’s basic infrastructure. The Senate recently proposed to cut SSA’s administrative budget by $492 million. Passage of this budget by the full Congress would lead to furloughs of all SSA employees of up to 20 days. Some in Congress have proposed cuts in federal employee retirement benefits, pay, civil service rights and the union’s ability to represent. AFGE has fought these proposals. However, we can’t win this battle without your help.
How can you help?
First, you can call your Congressman and Senators and demand a reasonable SSA budget and that they don’t pass bills that hurt you and your family.
Right now we are asking you to call Congress/Senate and ask them to oppose any cuts in the SSA administrative budget and restore the unwise cuts that were made since 2010 that reduced SSA’s budget by 14%. Now I want you to take out your cell phones and call your Congressperson. Here’s a flyer with talking points on the SSA administrative budget, when prompted enter your zip code and you will be connected to your Congressman/Senator’s office. Tell them don’t cut the SSA admin budget and restore the cuts made since 2010.
Now didn’t that feel good? You have taken an important action to try to make your work life better.
Joining the union is the next step. If you are not a member, there are applications on the table to join. Dues are ____ a pay period. Today we are offering a $100 incentive to join.
Wave the $100 bills.
In addition to calling your legislators, we ask you to visit your local Congressperson/Senator with a group of your co-workers. Tell them what a day in an SSA office is like and how their votes on the SSA budget directly affect your ability to do your job. Give them a copy of the Customer Bill of Rights. Ask them to endorse it.
If no local rep in the office:
Also, we need a local union rep in the office who can represent the employees and provide you with information on an ongoing basis regarding issues that directly affect you and your family. It’s very difficult to provide good representation with reps who are offsite. Also, you can organize things like the employee visit to the local congressman.
Who is interested in being the Local Rep here?
SSA employees need to become engaged. Your union can no longer be successful if you just pay your dues and sit back and expect us to represent your interests. The union can only do so much. The threats to your jobs, pay and benefits are real and can only be defeated if we work together and show Congress and the public that SSA is under attack. You need to help shape public support for SSA by explaining to the public that what we do is vital to them.
You can start by talking to your family, friends and neighbors about what Congress is proposing regarding SSA and the impact that it has on what we do. Then you can talk to your friend that sits next to you in church, to your barber/hairdresser and to your tailgate buddies. Tell them how they can help by calling their Congressman and demanding good service when they file for benefits – service that they deserve since they paid FICA tax for it all their working lives.
We need the support of all American citizens to insure SSA’s and your future. It’s our collective battle. It’s essential that you become engaged and aware union members.
If we sit on our hands the future is bleak. Together we will win. United we can’t be defeated.