Capitol Hill Event Puts Focus on Older Unemployed Workers

On Wednesday, Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance, teamed up with several Members of Congress, the Center for Effective Government, and other advocacy organizations to draw attention to older unemployed jobseekers. The Capitol Hill event highlighted the disproportionate impact of long-term unemployment on both near-retirees and younger workers (20’s). In the past month, the coalition has also highlighted the effect of long-term unemployment on children, women, and veterans. The events were inspired by a story bank, which the Center for Effective Government began in order to document the impact of a rough job market on more than 2 million Americans who were cut off from extended unemployment benefits at the end of 2013. Wednesday’s event featured Reps. Daniel Kildee (MI), Dina Titus (NV), Steven Horsford (NV), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Steny Hoyer (MD), Chris Van Hollen (MD), David Cicilline (RI) and others.  The Center for Effective Government has collected over 2400 stories about unemployed retirees who have spent down their savings and need the unemployment benefits for basic needs.

“Older jobseekers often face unemployment discrimination as they look for work, and they also have the longest bouts of unemployment,” said Mr. Fiesta. “The average duration of unemployment for workers ages 55 to 64 is 11 months, according to the Department of Labor. That's three months longer than the average for 25- to 36-year-olds.” You can view the photo archive from the event at http://tinyurl.com/l5ovmy2. To view video footage, go to http://tinyurl.com/n4dv66n.

Alliance Joins Boycott of Staples over Efforts to Privatize Postal Operations

The Alliance is asking its members to support the American Postal Workers Union’s (APWU) efforts to stop the privatization of postal operations by joining APWU members in boycotting stores of the office supply chain Staples. The retailer recently reached a deal with the U.S. Postal Service that threatens to replace full-service U.S. Post Offices with knock-off post offices in Staples stores that are staffed with low-wage non-U.S. Postal Service employees. “We are proud to stand with the workers of the U.S. Postal Service to protect living wage jobs that offer workers the opportunity for a dignified, secure retirement,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Earlier this week, just days after the 1.6 million member American Federation of Teachers joined the Staples boycott, the company appeared to back down by announcing that it would be ending its original pilot program with the U.S. Postal Service. Despite the announcement, however, it appears that the retailer will continue to offer USPS services at its stores. “This attempt at trickery shows that the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ movement is having an effect,” said Mark Dimondstein, President of the American Postal Workers Union. “Staples and the USPS are changing the name of the program, without addressing the fundamental concerns of postal workers and postal customers.” The boycott has already been endorsed by a number of other organizations including the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). For information on the Staples boycott, go to http://www.stopstaples.com/.

Social Security Administration Will Still Issue Verification Letters at Field Offices

Bowing to pressure from Alliance activists, lawmakers, and others, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced on Thursday that it will continue to provide benefit verification letters at Social Security field offices. The announcement reverses a previous plan to stop issuing the documents at field offices and shift to online-only availability. Verification letters are often provided to employers and government agencies in order to verify that beneficiaries are receiving benefits. With rates of internet access significantly lower among seniors and low-income Americans, the previous plan threatened to harm the beneficiaries most likely to request verification letters. “Our activists’ voices were heard. Alliance leaders and members have been saying for months that online benefit verification records by themselves are not enough to satisfy everyone’s needs,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. To read the announcement from SSA, go to http://tinyurl.com/lm34ljg.

Alliance Urges Members to Make Voices Heard on Field Office Closings

Over the last several years, budget cuts at SSA have resulted in 80 field office closings and nearly 11,000 fewer staff providing face-to-face assistance. These cuts come during an unprecedented increase in demand for critical SSA services as Baby Boomers hit retirement age. In response to the wave of SSA staff reductions and field office closings, the Alliance is asking members to call their representatives in Congress and let them know that service cuts at the Social Security Administration have to stop. For information on the service cuts, as well as phone numbers for contacting your representatives, see the flier from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) at http://tinyurl.com/lja4wg4.  

Affordable Care Act Success Fails to Bring Political Reward

More than 350,000 North Carolina residents have signed up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but that success has not translated into political support for the law or the leaders who voted for it. In the state, the Democratic Senate incumbent, Kay Hagan, is locked in one of the tightest races in the country and, despite increasing signs of the ACA’s success, is facing sharp criticism over her support of the law. Her opponent, Republican Thom Tillis, has made his opposition to the ACA a focus of the campaign, and Sen. Hagan rarely mentions the law on the campaign trail. The gap between the law’s success and its status as a political liability is a sign of a disconnect that has appeared in states across the country. “The Affordable Care Act is bringing health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans while helping seniors by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and expanding free preventive screenings. It’s important that we spread the word about the benefits we continue to see from the health reform law,” said Ms. Easterling. To read more about the gap between the success of the Affordable Care Act and support for the law, go to http://tinyurl.com/lw3u8wc.

Fiesta Meets With AFSCME Retiree Council

Mr. Fiesta traveled to Chicago to meet with the AFSCME Retiree Council on Saturday and Sunday.

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Posted 12:30PM on July 18 2014 by Eric Lind