By Steve Kofahl
On December 5, at the entrance to the building that houses the Social Security Administration Regional Office (SSA RO), nearly 100 people gathered to send our message to Congress. AFGE Local 3937 organized the one-hour rally, one of about 80 held by the Union at SSA offices throughout the country.
Labor, community leaders and activists joined the assembled crowd. What was particularly impressive and inspiring was the involvement by the Asian/Pacific Islander Community. Gary Tang, Director of the Aging and Adult Services Program at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), brought 15 immigrant seniors from the Rainier Valley. Sharyne Shiu-Thornton, Deputy Director of the InterIm Community Development Association, escorted 23 elders who walked from the International District. It was very difficult for them to walk, but that does not compare to the hardship that service barriers have created for them.
Diane Narasaki, ACRS Executive Director and Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition-King County; Doug Chin of the Organization of Chinese Americans-Seattle; and PSARA Board Member Frank Irigon were among the other community leaders who joined us. Cantonese and Mandarin interpretation of speakers’ remarks ensured that all could fully participate.
Speakers including PSARA President and Social Security Works Washington Chair Robby Stern, Sharyne Shiu-Thornton, and Steve Kofahl insisted that earned benefits be protected during the fiscal negotiations, and that SSA service be restored in our communities.
It was fitting that we were in front of the Regional Office of the Social Security Administration. The Regional Commissioner, Stanley Friendship, recently made the decision to close two of our accessible community offices – one in Belltown and the other in the International District – and to relocate the staff to the fortress that is the Jackson Federal Building. There, visitors must show current government picture identification and are subjected to magnetometers, and x-rays of their belongings. For those who speak little or no English, or who can’t afford to pay for expensive parking (since there is none on site for visitors, even the handicapped), the face-to-face service that is often preferred and needed is difficult or inaccessible.
Comments by Seattle Community Law Center Executive Director Alex Doolittle, PSARA Board Member Chuck Richards, and Asian Counseling and Referral Service Executive Director, Diane Narasaki, reinforced the message of the day – No Cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or Service Delivery- just before the event ended at noon.
The fight will continue! PSARA members are urged to call their elected representatives as the 2013 Congressional session commences at 1-888-659-9401. Tell them – No cuts to earned Social Security or Medicare benefits, or Medicaid! No more service cuts!