Public servants were out in force Tuesday, protesting potential federal budget cuts that would severely hinder their ability to serve the public.

Hours before the State of the Union address, members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and other labor organizations gathered in a park across from the Capitol, where President Obama was scheduled to give his annual report to Congress.

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, sequestration’s got to go,” the union members chanted, hoping the message would get through to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The workers were protesting the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration, which will take effect March 1 unless Congress acts to avoid them. The budget reductions are designed to save $85 billion through the end of this fiscal year. To get there, agency budgets would be reduced by 9 percent, except for the Defense Department, which would take a 13 percent hit.

“We’re trying like hell to stop it,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said before mounting the platform to address the rally.

Looking at the crowd dressed in union colors, Cox noted all the green and blue, then added: “Congress is looking at red. They want our blood.”