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Union Workers Lobbying For Government Employees To Get Back To Work

Matt Rourke
The interior of the capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa.

Some federal employees in western Pennsylvania are feeling the brunt of the partial government shutdown.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is lobbying for its members to get back to work. In fact, Phil Glover, AFGE’s National Vice President for Pennsylvania and Delaware, says they have called the White House so much that phones have been shut down.

“We've flooded [the White House], but the issue is there was no need for a shutdown,” he said. “They had negotiated this stuff prior to this; back in the summer they had worked out an agreement on a bipartisan basis.”

President Donald Trump and his allies in the U.S. House of Representatives are demanding $5 billion for a wall along the southern U.S. border, but Democrats are not on-board with that proposal.

Nine federal departments are shut down, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury.

The shutdown does not just keep employees at home. For some, it means extra work. Essential personnel are not allowed to take paid time off, sick leave or military leave during a shutdown, which means they could be called in to work during the shutdown. Glover said this cut in to some families’ time together during the holidays.

For those who are losing pay due to furlough, employees in Pennsylvania are allowed to sign up for unemployment.

The shutdown doesn’t impact much of the American public, so many people are numb to it, Glover said.

“What they figured out how to do, they're funding [Veterans Affairs] for the full year so nobody can complain about veterans not getting the care,” he said. “One of the shutdowns that I was a part of years ago, they didn't fund the passport office, and the American public was really mad when they went out to get passports and they couldn't. So that was funded for the whole year this year. They figured out who not to hit, so that the people don't feel it as much. They don't feel whether the Bureau of Prisons is out here working with no pay. I mean, the American public doesn't generally feel that, but those employees do.”

U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady released a statement regarding the shutdown:

“My number one priority as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania is the safety of the four million citizens of western Pennsylvania.  Accordingly, all Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Criminal Division will report to work during this government shutdown to ensure that there is no break in our criminal investigations and prosecutions.  I want both the public and all criminals to know that it is business as usual for the criminal prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

It’s unknown how long this shutdown could last, but President Trump said it will go on until they receive funding for the border wall.