No more food banks, we need paychecks

January 25, 2019

A federal worker reports on a protest by co-workers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet during the government shutdown.

HOLDING UP empty plates to symbolize the thousands of federal workers who are going hungry because of the government shutdown, hundreds of federal workers and supporters staged a protest in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. on January 23.

As Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continue to drag out the shutdown, locked-out federal workers are getting angry and stepping up the action.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) organized the Hart protest, with the support of the National Federation of Government Employees, the Teamsters, the Letter Carriers, D.C. Jobs with Justice and other groups.

Protesters wrote slogans on their empty plates, such as “Paychecks are NOT a Luxury!” “Will Work for Pay,” “Free the Hostages” and “No Shutdown, No Wall” among others. For 33 minutes, we stood in silent protest, one minute for each day of the shutdown. After the silent protest, we broke into chanting: “No More Food Banks! We Need Paychecks!”

Federal workers protest the government shutdown inside the Senate Office Building
Federal workers protest the government shutdown inside the Senate Office Building (AFGE | flickr)

The news media have been full of stories of federal workers being forced by hunger and empty bank accounts to turn to food banks for groceries. Fortunately, food banks, restaurants, chefs and residents have been generous, as we prepare for a shutdown that will likely stretch well past January 25: the second Friday without a paycheck.

A NEW CBS poll shows that most American are in solidarity with federal workers, with 71 percent saying they don’t think Trump’s racist border wall is worth a government shutdown.

Many feds are starting to feel the squeeze. One furloughed co-worker said that at least one creditor — whom she has called several times, as Trump suggested — insists that they get the full monthly payment, shutdown or no.

In an effort to help our hurting sisters and brothers, this week, my AGFE local voted for money to go to an Emergency Grocery Grant for our furloughed members. If you are federal worker needing assistance, be sure to check out the Resources for Financial Assistance that AFGE has pulled together.

After the silent protest Wednesday, many union leaders, including AFGE’s J. David Cox, went to Mitch McConnell’s office to ask why he won’t move to open the government. More than a dozen were arrested when they refused to leave without talking to McConnell.

Wednesday’s protest kicked off several days of action focusing on the Senate, as they prepare to vote on January 24 on competing bills to fund the government. AFGE has called a National Day of Action, which will include flooding Congress with phone calls and “bird-dogging” senators in their offices, asking how long they plan to make federal workers suffer over funding for Trump’s racist wall.

There may also be more civil disobedience actions on Friday. Please join us any way you can. Federal workers are being held hostage by Trump and McConnell. It is time we take action to force an end to this shutdown.

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