Expenses, stress mount for essential employees during Tea Party shutdown

Federal workers and supporters demonstrate against the federal government shutdown outside the Social Security Administration offices in Minneapolis.

Federal workers and their supporters demonstrate against the federal government shutdown outside the Social Security Administration offices in Minneapolis.

Gloria Jones and May Sy Lawrence won’t get paid for doing their jobs until Tea Party Republicans in Congress get serious about doing theirs.

Jones and Lawrence are essential federal employees – officially classified as “accepted employees.” As they have throughout the 15-day shutdown, they showed up for work today at the Social Security Administration offices in Minneapolis, but they won’t see their wages until members of Congress – who are getting paid – pass a clean budget to fund the government.

On their lunch break, Jones and Lawrence joined a demonstration outside the Social Security Administration, calling on Tea Party Republicans to end the shutdown and stop holding the economy – and the federal government – hostage. [Click here to add your voice.]

Republicans in the House initially allowed the government to shut down in an attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act. When that failed, they tried using the shutdown – and a looming deadline to extend the nation’s borrowing authority – to gain leverage in budget negotiations.

Jones said Tea Party Republicans might not be so cavalier about shutting down the government if their paychecks, like hers, depended on it.

“If they were in our shoes what would they do?” she asked. “They need to get their act together and end this now.”

About 19,000 federal workers in Minnesota – and 800,000 nationwide – are either out of work or working without a paycheck.

The strain is, perhaps, greatest on essential workers, who, unlike furloughed workers, must continue to pay for child care while they are at work, transportation to and from work, and other expenses – without the benefit of a paycheck.

Lawrence said the shutdown already has taken a toll on her family’s ability to meet its financial obligations. She called her mortgage company to ask for some relief from monthly payments during the shutdown, she said, and was denied.

“It’s pretty stressful,” Lawrence said, “especially when you have small children. We need to get it settled as soon as possible because it is affecting everyone.”

Lawrence, Jones and their co-workers at the rally today are members of the American Federation of Government Employees. Members of several other organizations joined them today, including the largest union of state government employees in Minnesota, AFSCME Council 5.

“At AFSCME, we’re familiar with shutdowns,” said Council 5 spokesperson Jennifer Munt, referencing a 20-day state shutdown in 2011. “We don’t like them because they hurt everyday people.

“We took Minnesota off the Tea Party choke chain. The Republican Party in Washington needs to do the same.”

Social Security Administration workers brave the rain to join a demonstration against the government shutdown outside their Minneapolis offices.

Social Security Administration workers brave the rain to join a demonstration against the government shutdown outside their Minneapolis offices.

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  1. […] Jared Thyen, a Bloomington resident who works in the Minneapolis Veterans Hospital, said many of his colleagues at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System – the people who process claims and determine benefits – are working without pay. […]

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