Across the nation, AFGE members, federal employees, and allies took to the streets after 800,000 federal workers missed their first pay check due to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
“To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our nation’s history that service members in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said in a statement to active-duty members.
Federal employees across the country continue to take to the streets to demand that the Trump administration and Congress reopen the government. Trump shut down the government Dec. 22 after Congress refused to give him $5.6 billion to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
In Washington, D.C. federal employees put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call a vote on the House-passed bills that would reopen the government. McConnell has so far refused to bring the bills to the Senate floor out of fear of crossing President Trump. Trump’s administration has also told states not to give unemployment benefits to employees who are working without pay.
On Jan. 17, AFGE members and other federal employees gathered at Nationals Park where Senate Republicans were on a retreat. They held signs that read “no paycheck, no peace” and chanted that McConnell should “call for the vote!”
They also made their own rendition of the classic baseball song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
“We will root, root, root to reopen. We don’t think it’s a game. For it’s one, two, FOUR weeks we’re out. And that’s a shame!” they sang.
At Reagan National Airport, TSA employees, air traffic controllers, and other workers affected by the shutdown held an event with Maryland members of Congress Steny Hoyer and Jamie Raskin to call attention to the impact the shutdown has on workers and the public.
In Sacramento, Calif., TSA officers and employees from other agencies rallied at Sacramento Airport to denounce the shutdown and tell their stories. TSA officers are among the lowest-paid federal employees. TSA Officer Kelly Eaves said the shutdown makes it even harder for her to make ends meet.
“I love my job. I’m still nice, and I’m still kind. I’m efficient, and I do my job. But inside I don’t know if I’m going to be able to come to work next week because I can’t afford gas in my car,” she said. “I can’t afford to continue coming to work to a place where I can’t get paid.”
James Mudrock, president of Local 1230, which represents TSA workers in California, said it’s wrong to make people work without knowing if they’re ever going to get a paycheck. “That’s not what this country is about,” he said.
TSA officers in Pittsburgh also rallied at the airport to call attention to their plight, caused by the prolonged shutdown.
“We have members across the state who are worried about feeding their families and paying their bills,” AFGE Local 332 President William Reese said. “The stress level is at an all-time high, but despite these current hardships our folks continue to serve the flying public and carry out their vital mission.”
In Detroit, federal employees gathered to protest the shutdown. They were joined by Michigan Congresswomen Brenda Lawrence, Rashida Tlaib, and Debbie Dingell.
Since the shutdown began Dec. 22, about 800,000 federal employees are either working without pay or locked out of work without pay.
Phil Miedema, a Coast Guard employee, told NPR the shutdown prevented him from filing his retirement paperwork in December. He has one month’s savings. After that he may have to take out a loan to pay bills.
"I'm not spending money. In fact, I was I was concerned just driving out here wasting the gas and having to pay for parking so I could have my voice heard. My lifestyle is just on total hold," he said.
TSA employee Miguel Pagarigan began to cry as he told reporters he has to put his house up for sale.
"Because of the shutdown and being furloughed — or basically, not being paid — I had to put a 'for sale' sign on my house on Sunday," he said.