Federal workers rally in Parkersburg for end to government shutdown
PARKERSBURG — Federal workers should not be pawns in a policy dispute, local federal workers said at a rally on Thursday in Parkersburg.
Over 20 federal workers and supporters came out to Bicentennial Park for a rally calling on congressional members and President Donald Trump to end the partial government shutdown. The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) Chapter 190 held the local rally at the same time the national union held a rally in Washington, D.C.
“It is a rally we didn’t really want to have, but here we are,” said Eric Engle, local NTEU member and event organizer. “We need to get the employees back to work.”
The union is not taking a position on the circumstances of why the government is continuing with the shutdown, Engle said.
“It will say that federal employees are not bargaining chips,” he said. “The employees are not pawns in this struggle.
“We need to end this shutdown right now and get people back to work and get them their backpay that they are owed.”
Engle said many federal employees need to stop being asked to work without pay while the shutdown continues.
“All of this is nonsense and needs to stop over this bickering in Washington, D.C.,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
Engle led those assembled in chants, including “What do we want? Government Funded. When do we want it? Now!”; “We want to work!” and “Federal employees must unite. Government open is our right!”
“I hope everyone can hear us,” Engle said. “Federal employees want to work. People who are not federal employees want them to work.”
Many local federal employees are still on the job, but the longer the shutdown lasts, those funding sources start to run out and more local workers could be impacted, Engle said. He believes some local workers are already furloughed as are many local government contractors.
The local offices of the Bureau of Fiscal Service has a large presence in the area and employs many people.
Engle said even if an agreement is reached soon, it could take a week or so to get everything back up and running and employees could still miss another pay period.
NTEU Chapter 190 Second Vice President Hanah Papkov said the whole union represents federal employees across 31 agencies nationwide.
“Our goal is to call for an end to the partial shutdown,” she said.
They want to inform their communities how this shutdown has impacted federal workers.
Currently, around 800,000 federal employees are furloughed or working without pay, Papkov said. In West Virginia, there are 6,200. Many government contractors are out of work and not getting paid, she said.
“We jeopardize retaining skilled work in the future in the community and local businesses are impacted by this shutdown,” Papkov said. “Federal employees don’t deserve this treatment and it is our job to stand up and make our voices heard.
“It is our representatives’ job to protect us.”
The union had letters people can sign in support of ending the shutdown that will be delivered to elected officials, she said.
There are around 290 members of Chapter 190 NTEU in this area.
NTEU Chapter 190 President Wayne Clements spoke about how federal employees needed “respect,” from the people and from those in elected positions.
“You have two branches of government, the legislative and the executive, who have an issue that has nothing to do with federal employees,” he said. “We are caught in the middle of this issue and that is not right.”
Clements talked about stories the national union was sharing with its members about federal workers who are now having to make choices about whether to pay their bills or continue health treatments. He asked those in attendance what people should do with people giving different answers.
“There is no right answer to this,” he said. “As a federal employee, why should we be put in such situations when we have nothing to do with what is going on in Washington, D.C.?
“All we want to do is work. We take an oath when we come into office that we are going to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land. All we want to do is serve our country and do our work.”
Another story had a furloughed federal worker who could not pay for his recently deceased wife’s headstone right now. Many people’s lives are being thrown into chaos, Clements said.
The federal employees are now caught between those two branches of government that cannot agree on a budget, he said.
“That is not fair,” Clements said. “(Workers) are caught in the middle and they are a pawn piece because the two parties cannot agree.”
If the shutdown continues, workers may be recalled to do work but will have to do so without pay, he said.
“Government employees get no…,” Clements asked.
“Respect,” those in attendance responded.
Engle said the 2.2 million federal employees across the country deserve respect.
Their work deals with disaster relief in hurricanes and wildfires and makes sure tax returns and Social Security payments are processed.
“We play an important part in this society and in people’s lives,” Engle said. “For one-fourth of the government to be shutdown and for those folks not to be able to provide those services is just unacceptable.
“We deserve more respect than being bargaining chips and pawns which is what we are right now.”