SEATAC (Jan. 14, 2019) — As the partial federal government shutdown became the longest in U.S. history over the weekend, the stress on federal workers and their families increased, and the unions representing those workers again ramped up the pressure on President Trump and Senate Republican leaders to “Stop the Shutdown.” More than 800,000 federal employees are either on furlough or are being forced to work without pay as the shutdown is now in its 24th day.
“It is cruel and outrageous for the president to use these 800,000 workers and their families as pawns,” said Larry Brown, president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, who attended solidarity rallies with federal workers on Friday and Saturday to express the state’s labor movement’s support for them. “The Senate needs to vote right now to stop this insanity and the president needs to stop putting his politics ahead of the well-being of America’s proud federal workforce.”
Here is a summary of developments over the weekend:
► Members of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and their supporters rallied Friday at Sea-Tac International Airport and leafleted urging all to call their senators and urge an immediate vote to end the shutdown. Also attending to support the effort were representatives of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA/IFPTE 2001), Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS), and the WSLC.
► Also Friday at the airport, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) met with members of PASS, NATCA, AFGE and other federal employees to hear about the hardship their families are facing and the impact the shutdown is having on their work and morale.
Murray has been outspoken in calling on Republican Senate leaders to allow votes on the House-approved appropriations bills to end the shutdown and fund essential government services. But so far, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who many say has the power to end the shutdown on his own, is refusing to allow votes.
“With each passing day, it’s clear just how much the Trump Shutdown is hurting families in every community in every state in this country,” Murray said. “I urge my Republican colleagues, make it your priority to work to with us to fund our government and end this completely unnecessary crisis. This started out as a Trump Shutdown, but with every day that passes that the Republican Senate won’t act, Republican leaders take more and more ownership, along with every Republican Senator who supports them.”
► The NATCA filed a lawsuit Friday against the U.S. government because air traffic controllers must work without pay amid the shutdown. The union is seeking a temporary restraining against the government, claiming it is in violation of the Fifth Amendment because it “unlawfully deprived NATCA members of their earned wages without due process.” The group also says the government is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act because it is not paying air traffic controllers at least minimum wage and because the Federal Aviation Administration did not pay them overtime during the shutdown.
AFGE already filed a similar federal lawsuit on behalf of correctional officers, Border Patrol and ICE agents, transportation security officers, and other federal employees who are labeled as “essential” and are currently working without pay.
► Transportation Safety Administration offers, federal correctional workers and others represented by AFGE and their supporters again rallied and picketed in SeaTac on Saturday, this time at Angle Lake Park to call for an immediate end to the shutdown.
Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-6th) attended to show his support for ending the shutdown. He and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) have introduced the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act, new legislation that would protect federal workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions, and loan defaults during a government shutdown.
“Across 800,000 kitchen tables today, hardworking people are trying to figure out how to pay bills and provide for their families without an income,” Kilmer said (pictured at left with WSLC President Larry Brown at Saturday’s picket). “Federal workers are public servants, they deserve better than being treated like pawns in a negotiation. This shutdown is wrong, and it’s time to reopen the government – but until that happens, it’s Congress’s responsibility to help out the families most affected.”
Kilmer and all other Democratic representatives from Washington state have repeatedly voted for appropriations bills to fund government services. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3rd) initially joined all Republicans in voting “no” on those bills, but has since switched her vote and is now voting “yes” to end the shutdown. Her Republican colleagues, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-5th) and Dan Newhouse (R-5th), are still voting to maintain the government shutdown.