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Labor Unions Respond To Government Shutdown

Sophia Li |
October 5, 2013 | 3:46 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Government employee unions protesting in Washington on Oct. 4. (Creative Commons Flickr-Keith Ellison)
Government employee unions protesting in Washington on Oct. 4. (Creative Commons Flickr-Keith Ellison)
Labor unions are rallying around the country for one thing: the passing of a clean continuing resolution (CR) to end the government shutdown.  

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has focused on trying to end the shutdown and taking care of furloughed government workers, instead of educating members on the Affordable Care Act, which went into effect as the shutdown began.

“If there are problems with the ACA, it should be dealt with separately from the budget and debt ceiling, in a way that’s not going to cause a government shutdown,” said Ruan Mims, AFGE District 12 legislative and political coordinator.

According to Mims, the union aims to ensure members who are out of work can get back to work. And the union hopes those working without pay, such as border control agents and transportation security officers, will eventually get paid. 

“Most of our members care about this country, they’re patriots,” said Mims, who coordinates for the AFGE in Arizona, California, Nevada and Hawaii. “It’s not right to use hardworking middle class Americans as pawns over the health care act or any other law.”

Mims’ message to Congress members is to pass a clean CR — "clean" as in the resolution would continue government funding without making major changes to current legislation, such as the ACA.

There are enough Democrats and Republicans to pass a clean CR if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would bring it to a vote, according to Mims.

But whoever is to blame, the lack of action is igniting backlash.

“They’re playing a game of chicken right now, and meanwhile we have 800,000 employees who are going without work who want to work and who are ready to work and have important jobs,” Mims said.

AFGE has organized events nationwide, including rallies outside political offices and where government employees work. AFGE.org members can find links to call lawmakers, organize picket lines and more.

There have already been nine planned events in California, according to a map that displays all the “Stop the Lockout” events around the country.

Unions have made it clear that they will not stop until a resolution is passed.

“As government employees, we’ve already been furloughed this year because of the sequester,” Mims said. “We’ve had pay freezes for three straight years, and we just think it’s not right to use government employees as pawns in a political game.”

Reach Staff Reporter Sophia Li here.



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