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Federal workers demand end to government shutdown at White House protest


By Marissa J. Lang Marissa J. Lang Local reporter focused on D.C. area news Email Bio Follow January 10 at 12:13 PM On the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, furloughed federal workers, contractors and union representatives gathered before marching to the White House to demand that President Trump reopen the government— with or without funding he has requested for a border wall.

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Leaders of the National Federation of Federal Employees hope that bringing federal workers to the president’s doorstep will show him whom the shutdown has hurt most.

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Trump, though, won’t be there to see them. He left for Texas early Thursday to visit the U.S.-Mexico border

“We want to send a very strong message — that this is not about politics, it’s about getting people back to work,” said Brittany Holder, a spokeswoman for the NFFE and a protest organizer. “A lot of the county thinks federal workers are all here in the D.C. area, but it’s only 15 percent. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, and suddenly the paychecks stop? People are feeling really stressed and anxious, and they want to know when this will end.”

Hundreds of federal workers, contractors and supporters spilling into the street in front of the AFL-CIO building, just down the road from the White House. They’re chanting, “we want our pay!” #ShutdownProtest #DC

Marissa J. Lang (@Marissa_Jae) January 10, 2019 The partial shutdown, which has left nine federal departments and several agencies closed since Dec. 22, remained at a standstill Thursday after a meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress unraveled a day earlier

Food inspections and maintenance of national parks have degraded, while federal loans and housing subsidies have languished in a state of limbo

Thousands of federal workers and government contractors have turned to charities and online fundraisers to feed their families and pay bills

[ For charities, the government shutdown could not have come at a worse time ]

The protest, which began at noon in front of the AFL-CIO building on 16th Street NW, down the street from the White House, is meant to highlight the struggles of furloughed federal employees and out-of-work contractors

Several Democratic members of Congress are expected to speak and join in the march to the White House, including House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Mark R. Warner (Va.), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.)

“We recognize that members of Congress in both parties have been working to get the government back open, but the president has continued to threaten to veto any bill that does that,” Holder said. “People feel let down. They feel abandoned, like nobody cares.”

Should the shutdown continue, Holder said, the NFFE is prepared to continue holding protests. The group also has discussed organizing a food drive and collecting aid for members who are struggling to make ends meet

[ Government shutdown creates a January slowdown for businesses trying to adapt ]

The NFFE has been receiving calls from its members since the shutdown began

Holder recounted the story of a Department of Housing and Urban Development employee in California who just bought a house and is struggling to pay her mortgage, plus $1,400 a month in day-care bills. Like hundreds of others, the member’s husband has turned to soliciting donations via a GoFundMe page

Another member of the union, a police officer with the National Park Service who lives in Washington state, said his sons just returned to college, leaving him with bills from universities and a list of expensive textbooks to buy

The federal government is supposed to be the place where we send our best and brightest,” Holder said. “People should aspire to work for the federal government, but now they’re wondering if this is the place they want to be.”

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