It was 90 degrees out on this Thursday afternoon, but the heat couldn’t stop the crowd from gathering at Independence National Historic Park. Federal employees from several different agencies gathered to say "enough" to the attacks on their pay, benefits, and mission.
Holding the signs that read, “Clean Air: A Matter of Life and Breath,” and “Don’t Punish the Public. Fund the EPA,” the protesters took turns discussing the reckless cuts and daily attacks on public servants.
The Trump administration is targeting agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services. The EPA, NPS, and HHS are facing massive budget cuts and the VA is being privatized more and more each day. The EPA and Interior stand to lose more than 4,000 jobs each while the State Department is facing a loss of 2,300 jobs. Several agencies are operating under a hiring freeze.
“The public needs to understand that these are not just faceless workers here. These are people that keep their community healthy – air, water, getting their Social Security checks out, taking care of veterans,” said AFGE National Vice President for District 3 Phil Glover.
The rally was organized by AFGE locals in Philadelphia representing employees at the EPA, NPS, SSA, VA hospital, and the Veterans Benefits Administration. Besides AFGE members, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding, the Sierra Club, AFSCME, and IRS members of NTEU also attended the event. AFGE leaders who attended included Glover, AFGE Local 940 President Joe Malizia, AFGE Local 1793 President Karen Ford Styer, AFGE Local 2006 President Beverly Wilmer, AFGE Local 2058 and NPS Council 270 President David Fitzpatrick, and AFGE Local 3631 President Gary Morton.
“No one wants big government until you need them, ie. Katrina, anthrax, 9/11, BP Gulf oil spill,” said Morton, who represents more than 700 employees at the EPA Region 3 Office in Philadelphia. The agency is facing a 31 percent budget cut.
The local president said delegating EPA’s tasks to states doesn’t make any sense as states don’t have the money and personnel to do the jobs EPA is doing. This is a serious public health issue. Every American relies on the EPA to make sure corporations comply with the laws that protect all of us against air, water, and land pollution.
Things are not looking good at our national parks either. Even with a huge maintenance backlog, the administration wants to get rid of more than 1,200 NPS employees.
“The maintenance backlog is already 550 million dollars. With a 12 percent cut, parks will be closed, historic buildings will crumble,” said Fitzpatrick, who represents NPS employees in Philadelphia. “The national park service mission to preserve and protect for future generations will not be attainable.”
Do your part to stop the cuts
Call Congress and tell your lawmakers to reject these reckless cuts. Tell them what you do on behalf of the constituents in their district and ask them to oppose these cuts.