By Sheri Williams
Showing support for federal workers who went weeks without paychecks during the government shutdown, dozens of union members and allies turned out at the Sacramento International Airport on Jan. 16 to protest.
“It’s wrong to make people work without knowing if they’re ever going to get a paycheck. That’s not what this country is about,” James Mudrock, president of AFGE Local 1230, which represents TSA workers in Sacramento and across California, told The Sacramento Bee.
Members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) were joined by affiliates of the Sacramento Central Labor Council and the California Labor Federation. The activists spoke to media and protested in the baggage claim area.
“It is critical that the family of Sacramento Labor stand in solidarity with our federal sisters and brothers,” said SCLC executive director Fabrizio Sasso. “It is absurd and disrespectful that so many American workers are being forced to show up and do their jobs without pay. This needs to end now.”
Art Pulaski, head of the California Labor Federation, said, “It’s time to end the shutdown! Federal workers took an oath to protect America and they’re keeping that promise every day. Now it’s time for Republicans and Trump to keep up theirs.”
By the day of the protest, workers had gone 26 days without being paid, forcing many federal workers across the country to resort to payday loans and public assistance as they struggled to pay bills and feed their families. AFGE was providing food assistance to members, some of whom could not afford groceries.
“Money is tight,” federal transportation security officer Susan Braverman told the Bee. “I maybe have a couple more weeks left of money before I’m no longer able to pay for childcare.”
The federal shutdown ended on Jan. 24 when President Donald Trump backed down on his insistence that the government pay billions for a wall at the Mexican border, instead agreeing to re-open federal agencies for three weeks. The shutdown had affected about 25 percent of federal operations and 800,000 workers, forcing national parks to close and TSA agents to work without pay to keep airports running and safe.
The 37-day shutdown was the longest in U.S. history. It was expected to take at least several days for furloughed workers to begin receiving back pay.
But President Trump was clear that he still intends to push for funding for his wall, and could resort to another shutdown in weeks if he doesn’t get it.
“Let me be very clear,” Trump said in a speech after announcing his reversed position. “We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom visited protesters at the airport, pledging to give them access to unemployment benefits if the shutdown continued.
“The good news is, we’re going to do it and shame on them,” Newsom said to TSA workers, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They are, in essence, threatening us for doing what we’re doing.”