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From left to right, Sylvia Torres, Orlando Torres and Eloise Melton picket outside the Social Security Administration office in Elkhart on Wednesday Dec. 5, 2012. They worry about budget cuts if the so-called fiscal cliff isn’t averted. Orlando Torres and Melton work in the SSA office here, while Sylvia Torres, Orlando’s wife, does not. (Truth Photo By Tim Vandenack) (TIM VANDENACK)
Social Security workers in Elkhart picket, warn of fiscal cliff
Posted on Dec. 6, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Workers at the Social Security Administration office here demonstrated on Wednesday, warning that if the so-called fiscal cliff isn’t averted in Washington, D.C., service here and across the country could be adversely affected.

The workers from the American Federal Goverment Employees union Local 357 used their lunch hour to picket outside the local Social Security office on Waterfall Drive. They held signs reading “No SSA budget cuts” and “Tell Congress no more service cuts.”

The SSA stands to lose more funding starting in 2013 per the varied spending cuts and tax increases meant to balance the U.S. budget and collectively referred to as the fiscal cliff. Federal lawmakers are furiously trying to come up with an alternative plan before the measures go into effect next year to avoid the harshest effects of the change.

As is, the SSA has already faced hiring freezes and staffing reductions, according to Orlando Torres, one of the picketers and an employee in the local SSA office. If the fiscal cliff measures take effect, the situation could get worse, with office closures and reduced hours of operation.

“We’re just letting the public know they’re going to be affected dramatically because of these budget cuts,” said Torres, a claims representative. “We’re talking about retirees who’ve worked 40 years. They deserve service because they’ve worked and paid into the system.”

SSA employees, moreover, could face furloughs of 15 to 40 days a year.

As of around 1 p.m. Wednesday, there were three picketers. More were out earlier in the day, Torres said. SSA workers in offices all around the country were to picket Wednesday as part of the campaign.