01/07/2019

The AFT calls for an end to the government shutdown

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With government agencies closed and more than 800,000 government workers furloughed or working without pay, families across the country are struggling to get by. They’ve been told to haggle over rent and utilities, and they’ve been forced to take money out of savings to cover basics and make difficult financial decisions to survive.

government shutdown

The shutdown means a quarter of federal workers are either on furlough or working without pay. As AFT President Randi Weingarten points out, “The Trump shutdown has plunged thousands of Americans into economic uncertainty and put critical services at risk—from corrections workers to food safety inspectors to those living on tribal lands. People who live paycheck to paycheck do not know when or if they will be able to afford their rent, food and medicine. It’s time to end the Trump shutdown and the pain it is inflicting on our families.”

Nobody wins in a shutdown, and this one is no exception. It leaves the most vulnerable families out in the cold: Native Americans are left without law enforcement or healthcare services on tribal lands, and won’t have vital services like road maintenance, which will cut off their access to food and medicine. Without plowed roads, students won’t be able to get to school. Immigrant families are still being separated at the border, and their children are getting sick and dying in detention camps that lack adequate medical supervision and care. People in domestic violence situations are left without legal protections. Government workers, including many AFT members, won’t get the paychecks they’ve earned until this ends.

Faculty who rely on government agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are experiencing interruptions, and some research funding has been cut off because grants are not being processed. Students or consumers searching government agencies for anything from health policy facts to food safety information will find there are no personnel available to answer their questions and no updates on the websites. Conferences and meetings will be held—or canceled—without the benefit of federal experts who normally contribute to conversations about everything from weather patterns to forest protection to astronomy.The new Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives has passed reasonable, commonsense legislation to re-open and fund the government. But Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans refuse to bring it up for a vote.

Every day that the government stays closed, the country suffers. Native Americans and immigrants are left struggling. Small-business owners and homeowners are left without access to loans. Food safety inspections are delayed. Crime victims go without necessary services. National parks will stay closed. And hundreds of thousands of dedicated public employees—many of whom are also AFT members—go without pay, forcing them to make preventable sacrifices to stay afloat.

Re-opening the government would put thousands of workers back to work and provide vital government services for those who need it. AFT members are being urged to call their lawmakers to tell them to re-open the government, and then to follow up with a letter.

[Elizabeth Sell]