'End shutdown, furlough Trump': New video!
Members of Congress lead rally with government workers idled or going without pay during shutdown
By Ted Cox
Members of the Illinois congressional delegation joined federal workers furloughed or going without pay in demanding an end to the government shutdown Friday at a rally in Chicago.
The partial government shutdown called for and “owned” by President Trump over his demands for a $5 billion wall on the southern border with Mexico ended its fourth week Friday with no resolution in sight. Although shutdowns have been a part of the partisan divide in Congress since the ‘90s, the current shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history at 28 days and counting.
“There is a manufactured crisis that the president has set at the border,” said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, of Evanston. “But there is a real crisis in communities across our country.” Whether on the job or not, she added, government workers are not being paid, and “they cannot afford to work with no pay.”
In a rally at what’s known as Federal Plaza in the center of several U.S. government buildings in downtown Chicago, workers and their union leaders told of airport workers being forced to work without pay, the same going for airline safety workers, while Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture employees are idled waiting for the government to reopen.
Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Don Villar said he had spoken earlier in the day with airline safety workers at Midway Airport, who have a stressful job to begin with. “It was hard enough just doing the job,” he said. “Now they’re doing the job without being paid, and that’s not right, and that’s not fair.”
EPA employee Michael Mikulka said, “No one is monitoring environmental data. No one is working on Superfund sites.”
U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, of Chicago, called it “embarrassing and indecent,” and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of south-suburban Matteson said, “Your are public servants, not public slaves!”
Florence Cannon, a USDA worker and president of a union representing 800 members, said they’re “experiencing crisis” with the inability to pay for bills or groceries. “ She said she and other furloughed government workers are eligible for food stamps, “and I monitor the program. That is a travesty. I am eligible for SNAP, and we work for the program.”
“Federal workers ought not to have to apply for food stamps — and then there are no food stamps there,” said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago.
Some food-stamp recipients had benefits “front-loaded” this month ahead of February, but then they’re expected to end without a resolution to the shutdown. Others said those receiving federal housing vouchers could face eviction as soon as the first week of February without a resolution.
The members of Congress pointed out that there is a bipartisan solution to fund the government without funding construction of the border wall, and it has passed the House, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has refused to allow another vote in the Senate, even though a similar measure passed the Senate by a large majority last month — a procedural move intended to keep the funding bill off the president’s desk to protect Trump and his demand for a wall.
“As Democrats, we believe in border security,” said U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, of Naperville. “But we want to have a conversation, and not have the federal government be held hostage to those negotiations.”
“This is not about border security, when we are not even paying our customs and border-patrol agents,” added U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, of Downers Grove. “This is not a lack of bipartisanship, when the House is passing bills that passed the Senate with 92 votes four weeks ago.
“This is about two men,” Casten added. “This is about one man who said he is going to own the shutdown and now doesn't have the courage and conviction to stand behind his words. And this is about a second man who dares to call himself a leader and won’t bring a vote to the floor of the Senate.”
“There is a solution to this,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, “which is to end the shutdown and furlough Trump.”
The dozens of workers attending the rally chanted, “Pay the workers and furlough Trump!”
“We find ourselves here today being exploited by our employer,” said Pete Rosa, of the 11,000-member Professional Aviation Safety Specialists. “None of us are getting paid,” he added, “and we’re still forced to work.”
Rosa said that if the shutdown were to persist, “we’re just rolling the dice” on airline security.
Here’s a video of comments from the rally put together by Zachary Sigelko of One Illinois.