RI labor leaders join call to end government shutdown

Rhode Island Congressional members are joined by labor leaders calling for an end to the government shutdown, now in its 24th day. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

Labor leaders joined the four Democratic members of Congress from Rhode Island in a joint call to end the partial shutdown of the federal government, now in its 24th day.

“We organized this event this morning, because we’re angry, frustrated and we’re outraged about the Trump shutdown,” said Congressman Jim Langevin.

“On Friday, federal workers missed their first paycheck, some 800,000 federal employees have gone now without a paycheck officially. On Saturday, the Trump shutdown also became the longest shutdown in American history. Neither of which anyone should be proud of. The President most especially needs to end this Trump shutdown now and reopen the government and should get people back to work and make sure they get paid on time.”

All four members of the Congressional delegation said Democrats were willing to negotiate on border security, but said Republican leaders and President Donald Trump must first reopen the government.

“The federal employees show up because they have a sense of responsibility and commitment to our country, as opposed to childish behavior, which is being exemplified by the President of the United States, who is acting like a petulant child,” said George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state.

Many federal workers who are regarded as essential remained at their post, including air traffic controllers.

“There’s definitely members that are concerned about when the next check’s coming in, especially now we’ve missed one, possibly going to be missing two,” said Paul Geddis, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association R.I. Chapter.

“That’s getting to be pretty tight. You see, people are still paying gas money to get to work, they’re still paying for child care,” Geddis said, adding the shutdown has halted hiring of much needed air traffic controllers. He said a FAA training academy has closed and training has come to a halt.

Some federal workers are asking about how they can pay for groceries.

“What our national office did was to send out information on where they can go to a food bank,” said Frank Womack, Region 2 Representative for the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 300,000 federal workers in most government agencies.

“Now, these are people that are proud people that work every day. They don’t have that stash of money set aside for an emergency like this,” Womack said.

President Trump Monday rejected calls to reopen the government before negotiating over his proposal to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

“I want to get it solved, I don’t want to just delay it,” the President told reporters outside the White House.


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