Union members rally in Minneapolis to end shutdown

Workers call on lawmakers to reopen the federal government – and put people back to work – during a rally near the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis.


Tomorrow, tens of thousands of federal employees won’t get their regularly scheduled paychecks. Today, their union family rallied in Minneapolis – and cities across the U.S. – to say that’s not OK.

Dozens of union members and retirees joined a demonstration along Hiawatha Avenue, just blocks from the Veterans Administration Medical Center. They called on President Trump and members of Congress to end the federal government shutdown and put federal employees back to work.

Gregg James, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said lawmakers should “do their jobs and get the federal government back open – and not use us as pawns in their political game.”

An estimated 5,470 federal employees in Minnesota are affected by the shutdown.

Some are furloughed from their jobs. Transportation Security Administration agents, food safety inspectors, guards at four federal prison and other employees are working without pay.

Several workers from the VA Medical Center joined the rally over their lunch break. They aren’t directly impacted by the shutdown, as funding for their agency is in place through the end of the fiscal year. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t angry.

“I’m thinking about my brothers and sisters who are out there working for free and that are furloughed,” said Bryant Thomas, a St. Paul resident who works in sterile processing at the hospital. “There are 800,000, and I’m out here for them.”

AFGE, which represents some 670,000 federal workers nationwide, organized the rally, but members of several other unions – the Machinists, Education Minnesota, AFSCME Council 5, OPEIU and others – stood in solidarity with federal workers.

Brad Lehto, secretary-treasurer of the state’s largest labor federation, the Minnesota AFL-CIO, pinned blame for the shutdown on President Trump, who on Sunday told reporters he could “relate” to the struggles of federal workers going without pay.

“Donald Trump just thinks you can ask your father for money,” Lehto said. “It doesn’t work that way for everyone.”

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