Frigid temperatures didn’t stop federal workers and others from showing up to Federal Plaza in Chicago on Thursday to protest the continuing shutdown of the government over President Donald Trump’s border wall.
The shutdown, which began before Christmas, entered its 22nd day on Saturday, and is now the longest in American history.
“Federal workers and the services they provide should not be held hostage to a border wall,” said Dorothy James, National Vice-President of the of the American Federation of Government Employees District 7 in a press release announcing the protest. “Until a budget is passed we will continue to rally, call our legislators, speak out, and mobilize the public to oppose this unnecessary and disastrous shutdown.”
According to the AFGE, some 8,000 Illinois government employees are affected by the shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of people nationwide have been affected. The federal government is America’s largest employer, with some 2.7 million civilian workers.
Trump’s message to those government workers – many who have now missed at least one paycheck and are in danger of missing meals, bill payments, and more – has been sadly pretty much on par for a man who inherited his wealth and lived in a gold penthouse before becoming President: “You’ll support me and you’ll like it.”
This of course, couldn’t be further from the truth – but this administration hasn’t cared much for truth since its head took the oath of office.
A dear friend of mine is a federal employee. He has a wife and four children and is the single income provider for the family. I can’t imagine that Trump or anyone in this administration staffed with sycophants and rich titans of industry know what the anxiety of missing a paycheck feels like.
That’s evident in the December letter sent to federal workers by the Office of Personnel Management that suggests workers try to barter services like maintenance with landlords. As if 1) landlords or a bank will let anyone paint the lobby of their building instead of paying what they’re owed and 2) furloughed workers magically become experienced electricians and plumbers overnight.
Moreover, while federal employees are allowed to have second jobs in many cases, a second job must not conflict with their official duties and in many cases have to report such employment or at least consult with a federal ethics office, which AFGE District 7 spokesperson Matt Muchowski pointed on Thursday out was closed due to the shutdown.
Our national parks are literally filling up with shit. Food banks are worried about running out of supplies while some federal workers are wondering where their next meal might come from. Agencies that oversee efforts to ensure clean water, air, and food are unable to do their job.
Trump and his loyalists are willing to allow a salmonella outbreak to own the libs.
Living in Illinois, which had a years-long budget impasse, I’m pretty familiar with what a hostage situation where services and workers are merely chips bartered with by powerful rich people to further enrich themselves and consolidate their power. We spent more than two years seeing marginalized and vulnerable people lose access to what little services exist to help them so that our governor could bust unions and give himself and his rich donors more tax breaks.
That’s pretty much what Trump’s doing during the shutdown. His base is fine with it, because his loyalists are people who would cut off their own nose to spite their face, or at least vote against their own interests just to own the libs.
This isn’t about safety, it’s about power. That Trump has been mulling over the idea of declaring a national emergency – something that would give him even more power in a government mostly controlled by the right and his loyalists – is dangerous. Pissing away $5.7+ billion on a wall that won’t work and is likely to cause more problems than it solves is dangerous too, but that a growing part of the population is fully willing to do whatever they can to cement Trump as the head of an authoritarian regime should frighten anyone who’s not up for living in a fascist state.
I don’t exactly know where we go from here. One thing is for sure though – folks need to start building up mutual aid networks now, because we’re nowhere near the bottom and things continue to slide towards it.