DETROIT (WWJ) – Government employees and supporters rallied in protest of the federal shutdown in downtown Detroit Thursday, voicing their displeasure with the standstill in the nation’s capitol.
Carrying signs as they marched up and down the sidewalk in front of the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building, members of the American Federation of Government Employees union (AFGE) and other AFL-CIO unions are trying to send a message to those in Congress about the impact of the shutdown on localized employees.
AFGE national representative Joe Dolan spoke on behalf of the employees, and urged that federal workers are just normal people.
“Unlike the stereotypical impression of the federal employee being a bunch of under-worked and over paid people,” Dolan said. “There’s an awful lot of people here that make $35,000 or maybe $40,000 a year. They’re living paycheck to paycheck.”
He concedes that while some may label it as rhetoric, government employees are being held hostage at the hands of Congress.
“Most of these people that are out here, like the people at the VA regional office, are being required to come to work without pay,” Dolan explained. “We’re not trying to sound like a bunch of whiny federal employees; they’re gonna suck it up and get the job done, like they always do.”
Dolan says, just a few days ago, 75 to 80 percent of workers were sent home without pay, leaving a “skeleton” staff.
“We get bad press a lot because of the amount of time it takes to approve veteran’s benefits,” Dolan continued. “A lot of that is because they are already short-staffed. With this shutdown it’s really gone up.”
The AFGE is working with the AFL-CIO to identify resources where furloughed government workers can look for help in agencies like the United Way.
Meantime, in Washington, House Speaker John Boehner was calling on President Obama to negotiate the reopening of the federal government in an effort to go forward with the debt ceiling proposal. (More on this HERE).