After an announced move of the local SSA (Social Security Administration) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) office from Pittsburg, local union members are hoping it's not too late to prevent the move.
Last week, the announcement was that the local SSA office at Adams and Broadway would close on Nov. 15. The 12 employees would remain employed, with 11 moving to the Joplin office and another employee being reassigned to another office.
Budgetary reasons were cited for the closure, including rent and guard service for the site (estimated at $1.5 million over 10 years) and $1 million in renovations supposedly needed for the building.
With about two months before the move, that's where the AFGE steps in. The American Federation of Governmental Employees is hoping to raise public and legislative pressure on the higher-ups at SSI not only to protect the interests of the employees, but also to protect the interests of the public, specifically those who will now have to drive 30+ miles to get to the next nearest office.
"They're pushing everybody to the library. But if there's 100 people in the library, all wanting to use the computer, you can't accommodate that. SSI just can't do a lot of stuff on the Internet," said Senitria Hampton Monk, of the AFGE.
Monk said there are a number of services provided by the SSI and SSA that simply have to be done in person. For instance, she said, it occasionally happens that a person must prove to SSA that they have not, in fact, passed away. That must be done in-person.
Others may just like the personal touch that comes at a local office.
"It gives some of them a sense of independence," said Cheryl Hainkel, also with AFGE. "For people with disabilities, like those at CLASS, they don't have to rely on a case manager."
Hainkel and Monk said that while there is no formal process to protest the decision, such moves have been turned over elsewehere, citing Clinton, Iowa, as an example.
Monk noted the importance of the efforts to protest the move.
"Everybody has a Social Security Number. This is your connection. Everybody will retire some day. This is your connection. Everybody will use Social Security services at some point in their lives. Life or death, you're going to have to deal with this office," she said.