Four days into the government shutdown and with no end to the closure yet in sight, two of the largest federal-worker unions have scheduled a rally in Washington to protest the relative lack of progress by political leaders.
Members of the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union will take part in the demonstration slated for Friday at 11 a.m. at the House Triangle on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.
Labor leaders will emphasizing that the public servants on furlough because of the shutdown would rather do their jobs than be caught up in a political impasse, according to an announcements from the unions.
“Federal employees want to go to work, they want to serve the American public, but they are being locked out of their jobs due to this government shutdown,” AFGE president J. David Cox said in a statement. “We are calling on Congress to stop the lockout and allow federal employees to go back to work.”
Lawmakers including Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will speak at the rally, joining Cox and NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley.
Congress found itself at standstill earlier this week as the government’s previous temporary budget was about to expire, leaving federal agencies without funds to continue operations. Republicans insisted on passing a new short-term spending plan with an amendment to delay key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, while Senate Democrats refused to consider those proposals.
The stalemate resulted in a virtual halt in government operations on Tuesday morning. Labor leaders that day called on lawmakers to swiftly end the shutdown by approving a funding plan without controversial healthcare amendments.
During a media event on Capitol Hill, Kelley described the lawmakers who refused to pass a so-called “clean” continuing resolution “like a little kid taking their ball and going home when they know they are going to lose the game.”
“This is not a game,” Kelley continued. “People’s lives are being hurt by this. Congress must stop this irresponsibility, and stop this shutdown now.”
Lawmakers in the House and Senate have proposed legislation that would provide back pay for federal workers who are furloughed during the lapse in appropriations. The House bill, which has official support from a bipartisan group of120 lawmakers, is expected to be up for a floor vote as early as Saturday.
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