By TIM ROWDEN
Furloughed federal workers, members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) USDA Local 3354, rallied outside the Federal Center at 4300 Goodfellow Blvd. near Pine Lawn today to demand an end to the government shutdown that has shuttered their offices and is keeping them from earning the paychecks they need to support their families.
This marks the 19th day of the partial government shutdown, which Republican President Donald Trump is using as a cudgel to force Congress to approve $5.7 billion in federal tax dollars to build a wall along the nation’s southern border to fulfill a campaign promise to his base to address a manufactured crisis that Democrats, border state politicians and residents who live along the border say doesn’t exist.
While the president, under increasing scrutiny for alleged financial improprieties and campaign violations, is playing a game of political chicken to stoke his base, some 800,000 federal employees, including about 12,000 in Missouri, are going without a paycheck. And the people who count on the services these workers provide are being left out in the cold.
‘HOW IS THIS MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN?’
Emma James has worked for the federal government for 18 years, the past 11 in the multi-family housing unit processing home loans, grants and rental assistance.
“I really feel bad for the people who need assistance,” she said. “How is this making America great again hurting people who can’t get an apartment, who can’t get assistance, who can’t pay their bills?”
As for herself, James said, “I live paycheck to paycheck. Laclede Gas, Ameren, the bank that holds my car loan, they don’t care that I’m on furlough and not getting a paycheck, they need to get paid.”
AMERICANS HELD HOSTAGE
Richard Isserman, a Local 3354 retiree and former supervisor at USDA Rural Development, urged union members and other taxpayers to contact Missouri Senator Roy Blunt and approve the funding originally approved by the Republican-controlled Senate and approved in a package of bills by the now Democratically controlled House Jan. 8 to reopen the government.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to allow a vote on the funding bills citing President Trump’s unwillingness to sign them.
“We need to get a message to Senator Blunt,” Isserman said. “We’re not Democrats or Republicans. We’re patriots who made a decision to make a career working for the American people. We can’t afford to go without a paycheck. We can’t afford to go into bankruptcy because we can’t pay our mortgage. Never have so many Americans been held hostage because of politics – 800,000 people furloughed or forced to work without paychecks. And that’s not counting the contractors who are in there working and not getting paid. It’s unconscionable.”
‘THERE IS NO EMERGENCY’
President Trump addressed the nation last night in an address broadcast from the Oval Office.
Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis) issued a press release following the address.
“There is no emergency along our southern border, but there is a very real crisis in the Oval Office,” Clay said.
“The lies that the President told the nation tonight cannot hide the ugly truth that he owns both this shutdown and the devastating financial damage that over 800,000 federal employees will suffer to satisfy his ego and his racist campaign promise to build a wall that has absolutely nothing to do with border security.
“Federal employees are not pawns in a political game of chicken,” Clay said. “They are essential public servants who make this country work for the American people. They deserve to be paid on time, to be respected for all that they do.
“In Missouri, there are more than 12,000 federal employees who are affected by this shutdown,” Clay said. “We’ve given Mr. Trump the ability to reopen this government and end this shutdown. He should do it immediately.”
The Missouri AFL-CIO and St. Louis Labor Council are hosting a rally with federal workers Thursday, Jan. 10, at 11 a.m. to send a message to Stop Hurting Workers and End the Government Shutdown at USDA Rural Development, 4300 Goodfellow Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63120.
Labor Council President Pat White urged all union members who are available to attend.
“Regardless of what side of the aisle you fall on, holding everyday working men and women hostage for your agenda is wrong,” White said. “Please join me tomorrow to let the federal government know that we are fed up.”