WASHINGTON -- Low-wage workers followed members of Congress to the World War II Memorial on Wednesday to protest a federal government shutdown that had entered its second day.
The two-dozen protesters, organized by a labor group called Good Jobs Nation, work in federal buildings affected by the shutdown. The group has organized several small strikes and protests to draw attention to the estimated 2 million workers directly or indirectly employed by the federal government for low wages.
On Wednesday, they protested no wages. Luis Chiliquinga, 63, works at a McDonald's restaurant inside the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Wright Place Food Court -- but only when the government's open.
"They don't think about the situation of the workers," said Chiliquinga, still wearing his McDonald's polo shirt. "They only think of their political interest but they don't think of the effects these actions cause to the workers."
The government shut down after Republicans sought to defund the Affordable Care Act in amendments to legislation that would have funded basic government operations. Twenty-five million of the nation's more than 50 million uninsured are expected to gain coverage thanks to the law.
Chiliquinga, a resident of Germantown, Md., said if the shutdown lasts for a long time, "I cannot pay the rent. I cannot pay the bills. I cannot nothing."
Several conservative Republican members of the House of Representatives had arrived at the memorial to help veterans get past a barrier erected by the National Park Service. They blamed the Obama administration for the shuttered memorial even though their faction is the most opposed to a clean spending bill that would reopen the government. The protesters had hoped to see House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), but he didn't show up.
Yanina Fiallos of Alexandria, Va., said she'd worked at the Subway sandwich shop in the Ronald Reagan Building's food court for six years before being laid off when the shutdown started this week.
"It's really bad because I rely on my paycheck to pay my rent," Fiallos said in Spanish. "Without that income, what can I do? I have three kids to take care of."
Nyah Potts of Clinton, Md., started working as a server at Aria, a pizza restaurant in the Reagan Building, earlier this year. She said her tips have already dwindled since the end of the summer rush. She's worried the shutdown will make things even slower.
"I'm out of money, which is why I'm pretty worried about the shutdown," Potts, 29, said in an interview. "Fewer shifts and definitely less money immediately."
She's not impressed by the shutdown. "I think it's absolutely ludicrous," she said. "It's just people trying to be a stick in the mud and be defiant rather than accept change and accept that people need health care."