Workforce

Feds rally against shutdown as missed paychecks loom

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) speaks at a rally of federal employees outside AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Chase Gunter/FCW) 

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) speaks at a rally of federal employees outside AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Chase Gunter/FCW)

With the first missed paycheck looming and no end to the shutdown in sight, hundreds of federal employees took to downtown Washington, D.C., to protest and voice their frustration over furloughs and working without pay.

Union representatives and Democratic lawmakers gathered outside of the AFL-CIO building and marched to the White House in protest of the shutdown.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) spoke on stage. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), as well as at least 10 House Democrats, were also present.

Horatio Fenton, president of the National Treasury Employee Union’s Chapter 22 representing IRS employees, said he and about 100 employees traveled from Philadelphia -- "two buses full" -- to express their frustration at not being able to work and the real-world impact that’s causing.

NTEU also filed a lawsuit Jan. 9, the union's second since the start of the shutdown, challenging the constitutionality of expecting employees to work without pay.

"As far as the impact to the taxpayers, the filing season usually starts somewhere around the 28 of January, and if we continue beyond that, we're going to see an impact to the taxpayers directly," Fenton said. "We haven't gotten any directives" from IRS beyond some employees having to return to work without pay to prepare for filing season, he said.

One National Archives employee at the protest said most of her agency's workers have been furloughed but said agency supervisors held meetings warning employees in the leadup to the shutdown. She also added the agency provided guidance for "talking to a landlord, asking for forbearance, if needed."

Still, even with that preparation, "most of my coworkers live paycheck to paycheck, so each one counts," she said.

In addition to the employees from the law enforcement officers within the Department of Homeland Security who either aren't at work or aren’t being paid, other furloughed employees pointed out the security and safety risks posed by the partial shutdown.

Steve Carl, a safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration who traveled from Miami on behalf of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, estimated that the "majority" of the roughly 3,300 aviation safety inspectors were on furlough, adding, "they are recalling a few."

"We're asking just to go back to work, we’re not concerned about the money right now," he said. "It's the safety of the flying public. We do the inspections on the aircraft, on the pilots, on the parts being repaired."

Trump spent much of the day away from Washington, D.C., on a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border town of McAllen, Texas. As he was leaving, he announced via Twitter that he was cancelling planned travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The trip doesn't take place until Jan. 22, potentially signaling at least two more weeks of a partially shuttered federal government.

On Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives passed two appropriations bills, to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development and  Transportation as well as the Food and Drug Administration. The votes were mostly along party lines, but a handful of Republicans joined Democrats to pass the two measures.

In the Senate, a bill to compensate furloughed federal employees for missed salary during the lapse in appropriations passed via a voice vote.

Additionally, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) offered a bill to protect feds and contractors who are missing paychecks as a result of the shutdown from foreclosure, eviction and loan defaults during the shutdown.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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