Furloughed Workers Protest in Federal Plaza
By Michelle ManchirTribune reporter
October 9, 2013
About 50 furloughed federal employees gathered at the plaza outside the Kluczynski Federal Building today with what many said was one key message to members of Congress members: Do your jobs. We need our pay.
The downtown rally, organized by labor union leaders, brought out mostly employees in Chicago offices of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency. Rally attendees carried signs that read “Jobs not furloughs!” and “Don’t shut down the recovery!”
Some shouted chants led by union leadership, like “Furloughs aren’t the way to go!”
While many EPA employees said they fear for consumers since their normal operations for monitoring contaminated water and air are halted under the shutdown, others said the shutdown is personally affecting their economy at home.
Many said they expect paychecks at the regular time next week, but it will be for only six days of work, as opposed to two weeks that they’re accustomed to, and the costs of their medical insurance will still be taken out.
“I have to worry about paying my rent and my car,” said Anne Williams, 49, a single mom who said she does clerical work for the Department of Labor and has an annual income of about $55,000. “I have a little money saved but we don’t know how long it’s going to last.”
Williams, of south suburban Worth, who’s also a vice president in her local labor union, said she extended the due date this month for her car payment because of the furlough.
“What happens if (Congress doesn’t) decide anything? I want my credit to be good,” she said.
Like many who gathered today, Williams said she was in the process of applying for unemployment.
Robert Reiter, secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor, told the federal employees who gathered that they are in a “hostage situation.”
“Things that used to happen as a matter of course aren’t happening anymore,” Reiter said to the crowd, who shouted encouraging “yeahs!” back at him. “And you know what it’s all about? …This is all about politics.”
More rallies calling for an end to the shutdown are planned for next week downtown, said John O’Grady, president of a local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees.