Federal workers rally on Hill
By: Ginger Gibson
October 4, 2013 01:58 PM EDT
Hundreds of furloughed federal employees rallied outside the Capitol on Friday to call on Congress to vote to reopen government.
Led by more than 20 members of Congress and public employee union leadership, the crowd chanted, “We want to work” and “Let them vote,” alluding to the demand by Democrats to hold a House vote on a “clean CR” that approves government funding but doesn’t gut Obamacare.
For the first few days of the shutdown only small groups of federal employees have demonstrated outside the Capitol. But on Friday they made their biggest demonstration yet.
“Reckless Republicans have laid off almost a million workers,” shouted Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO union. “That irresponsible behavior could throw our entire economy back into recession.”
Several speakers pointed to the U.S. Capitol Police who responded on Thursday to an incident when a woman crashed into a gate at the White House and then led police in a chase that ended with her being shot outside a Senate office building.
“Yesterday we witnessed the brave actions of government workers, our Capitol Police officers, our government worker first responders who risk their lives to protect members of Congress, staff and the public from a shooting on Capitol Hill,” Trumka said. “Their actions remind us that government workers are proud public servants who often do selfless, courageous work. Because our government shut down, these people are working but don’t know if or when they’ll get paid.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also highlighted law enforcement officers working through the shutdown who are not being paid.
“Everybody remembers that two weeks ago there was a shooting in the Navy Yard,” Sanders said. “Twelve of our brothers and sisters were killed, others were wounded. And the people who went to action to take down that shooter were federal police officers who today are not being paid. That’s wrong.”
Sanders also invoked Thursday’s incident.
“Yesterday we had an incident on Capitol Hill,” Sanders said. “I heard the gunshots. Many of us went away from the shots. Police officers went to the shots. Those Capitol Police officers are not being paid today, and police officers all over this country are not being paid.”
Natasha Rozier, an employee at the Census Bureau, spoke at the rally, explaining that she has had to tell her 5-year-old daughter why both of her parents aren’t going to work this week.
“With no money mommy is not able to take you to the places that you enjoy the most such as Chuck E. Cheese, going to the movies, going out to eat or even buying you books,” Rozier said she told her daughter. “This broke my heart.”
She added, “Our job as federal government employees is to serve the people but that is not possible right now.”
Workers waved signs and vowed to come back next week if the government wasn’t reopened. The overarching message from the crowd was that they want House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to allow a vote on the clean CR.
“What are you afraid of Mr. Boehner?” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“His job,” someone shouted.