Federal employees worry about next paycheck, protest partial gov't shutdown

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DETROIT (WJRT) - (01/10/19) - It's the largest union of federal workers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan, and its members are demanding an end to the partial government shutdown.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)represents some 800,000 employees.

"All of them are affected by the shutdown but since it's only a partial shutdown only about 420,000 are directly affected, furloughed working without pay or locked out," said Timothy Hatt, National Rep for AFGE.

"Whenever there's a call to justice we will be here. Boots on the ground," said Local 778 President Gregory Simpkins. "I'm very angry because it seems as though he's [President Trump] using us as a pawn."

Simpkins traded in his TSA uniform for a poster and a bullhorn Thursday to join dozens of federal workers for a protest outside the federal building in Detroit.

As president of the union covering all 17 airports in Michigan, Simpkins says he is trying to boost morale.

"My job is to keep all our people upbeat a little bit, but morale is down at the airports. Our job is just to keep them focused on the job and the mission," Simpkins said.

They're doing their jobs but Local 778 Vice President Stephanie Haas says it's hard not to think about their bottom line. Haas covers Lansing, Flint Bishop International Airport and MBS International Airport.

"People are scared. We don't know when our next paycheck will come. And you know we've got kids to feed, a lot of single parents," Haas said. "It should've never come to this. We're expected to be to work every day but they're not paying us."

It was not just airport employees represented at the protest, the EPA, IRS and Social Security Administration also had workers show up to speak out.

"We have been reporting and we have been appropriated through 2019 - and we're supposed to get paid tomorrow. When I see the direct deposit then I'll believe," said Beatrice Sanders, a SSA claims specialist.

"We're hurting. I've gotten a lot of complaints from members who don't have money to pay their gas bill coming up tomorrow it's going to be due and they're not going to receive a check. And they're afraid and some people are looking at possible convictions," said IRS employee Jessie Dawkins.

The message for Congress and the president is simple.

"Do your job so we can get paid for doing ours," Haas said. "It hasn't hit fully yet. our missed pay will be the end of this week, so once that comes about, yes, it will definitely be a lot tougher because that calls into question - gas to get to work or food to feed your kids."

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