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Trump government shutdown gives coal to federal workers for holidays

By Masao Suzuki |
December 22, 2018
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San José, CA - At 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, December 22, nine of 15 agencies of the federal government will shut down over President Trump’s demand for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Almost 400,000 federal workers would be furloughed, and another 400,000 so-called essential workers will have to go to work without pay. This comes to about 40% of the 2 million federal government workers. In past shutdowns, federal workers got backpay at a cost of billions of dollars to the government. But there are millions of contractors and contract workers who will probably not be paid, right in the middle of the holiday season.

The largest union representing federal workers, the American Federation of Government Employees, or AFGE, noted that the average worker in their union brings home only $500 a week, and that going without pay during the holidays would be a real hardship. This is actually the third shutdown of the federal government under President Trump this year alone. Federal workers have also had to fight a proposed wage freeze by Trump and the president’s effort to weaken protections for federal workers.

Many agencies that oversee the federal health care programs Medicare and Medicaid, retirement and disability payments under Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and the Post Office will continue to function. One the other hand, one of the affected agencies will be the National Park Service. While some parks will remain open, 80% of Park Service workers will be furloughed and many services closed or cut. On the other hand, TSA agents will continue work at airports as “essential workers,” but without pay.

Last week in a meeting with congressional leaders, President Trump said, “I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you [the Democrats] for it.” But on Friday, Trump spent the day trying to blame the Democrats for his decision not to sign a bill extending government operations through February. Trump also threatened that the shutdown “would be a long one” if he did not get funding for a border wall.

Trump’s demand for a wall is part of his crackdown on immigrants and refugees. Under his policies almost 15,000 children have been incarcerated in concentration camps near the U.S.-Mexico border. Refugees from Central America are being turned away and deported, with some meeting their deaths in U.S. custody, while waiting in Mexico, or after being sent back to violence that caused them to leave in the first place.