Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Demonstrators at Hiawatha and 54th call for end to shutdown

Posted on 27 January 2019 by calvin

EDITOR’S NOTE: The longest federal government shutdown in history ended as the February Messenger was going to press.

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
“I would like the government shutdown to end so I can go back to work and get a paycheck,” stated Brian Garthwaite while standing along Hiawatha Ave. on Jan. 10.

He was among about 30 people holding signs and demonstrating at Hiawatha Ave. and 54th St. near the Veterans Affairs Health Care complex from noon to 2pm. The event was organized by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Sign slogans included, “End the Shutdown,” “Do What’s Right,” and “Let Me Do My Job.”

Photo right: About 30 people holding signs demonstrated at Hiawatha Ave. and 54th St. near the Veterans Affairs Health Care complex on Jan. 10. The event was organized by American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). (Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Labor Review)

The demonstration was held to bring attention to the public, according to Gregg James, National Vice President of AFGE’s 8th district, and was planned for the day before workers missed their first paychecks. The federal government shut down some departments on Dec. 22, 2018, a move that affects 800,000 government workers. While some are working without pay, 350,000 have been furloughed.

One of those is Brain Garthwaite of Bloomington. He’s been a compliance officer for the Food and Drug Administration for the past 16 years and serves as the AFGE Local 3381 President.

“My empathy is with federal employees who for reason not of their own doing, are required to work without timely pay, cannot afford the gas it takes to get them to work that they are doing without timely pay, cannot provide adequately for their family because they are not receiving their pay timely, or are not allowed to do their job,” remarked Garthwaite.

“I would ask the Senate Majority Leader if he thinks it’s fair that he is drawing a government paycheck for not doing his job of advancing for a vote appropriations bills that had universal and unanimous support before the shutdown commenced? Yet he expects federal employees to do their jobs without getting timely pay. Does he think it’s fair that his spouse, the Secretary of Transportation, also is drawing a government paycheck, but many other couples who are federal workers are not both receiving timely government paychecks for work they are doing? And I would ask if he needed to watch Schoolhouse Rock’s ‘I’m Just a Bill’ as a remedial refresher on the regular order process for how a bill becomes a law.”

While Miranda Kiwelu was still working at the VA, she decided to demonstrate to show her support for those who weren’t working. “It’s not fair we’re being used as pawns,” said Kiwelu. “There are a lot of people who are being punished and will be without places to live and food to eat. It’s sad.”

“We want this to end quickly so they can get back to their everyday lives,” agreed Ednika Dabney of AFL-CIO, who was demonstrating in solidarity with those on furlough.

A shutdown “destroys morale, creates hardship and anxiety, and cost taxpayers millions,” pointed out James. As his organization represents a five-state region, they were considering holding a demonstration in Iowa next. Complicating things, however, is that “federal employees are fearful of retaliation for exercising their first amendment rights,” he said.

Like many others, Garthwaite is drawing on his savings while he waits for the shutdown to end.

“Citizens should understand that, even though legislation has been signed to provide back pay to affected federal employees after the shutdown ends, bills and expenses cannot be paid with a promissory note,” remarked Garthwaite. “Citizens should understand that a shutdown and furlough is not a vacation for federal employees. Citizens should understand that with very few exceptions, federal employees want to go to work to be paid for the work they are doing or are prevented from doing.”

He encouraged those who want to help to donate to local food shelves.

“There are many acts of kindness that citizens are taking to help affected employees, and these acts are received with heartfelt gratitude,” Garthwaite said. “There are some instances, however, when federal employees must decline assistance.” These stipulations are laid out at https://www2.oge.gov/Web/oge.nsf/Resources/Gifts+from+Outside+Sources.

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