Now 33 days into the government’s record-length partial shutdown, furloughed federal workers took to the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., in droves to call for the government to reopen.
On Wednesday, about 500 government workers, union leaders and supporters gathered in the building to protest — chanting phrases like “No more food banks, we need paychecks!” — said Jacqueline Simon, the policy director of the American Federation of Government Employees.
Demonstrators held up messages such as “Let me work” and “This is ‘America first?’” scrawled on disposable plates, with the plates signifying that “the cupboard is bare” as they go without paychecks, she said. They also observed 33 minutes of silence, symbolizing each day they’ve gone without pay amid the shutdown.
“We’re calling for the government to reopen and full funding for all the affected agencies,” Simon said. “People want to go back to work. They want to get paid.”
“Using shutdowns as a way of politicians forcing their will on the American people ― employees don’t want to be pawns in this kind of a game. They want to do their jobs and support their families,” she added.
More than 800,000 federal workers have been going without pay for over a month now. Some have been furloughed, while others, deemed essential, have been working without paychecks.
Although federal employees will receive back pay after the government reopens, many are struggling to get by in the meantime. Potentially hundreds of thousands of government contract workers who are also out of work will likely never see retroactive pay.
It is still not clear when the shutdown might end, as President Donald Trump has shown no sign of budging on his demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border — which Democratic lawmakers have firmly opposed. The Senate is set to vote on measures this week that could end the shutdown, but they seem unlikely to pass.