Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Protesters Take to Hart, Call for Shutdown to End

Over 300 protesters gathered Wednesday in the Hart Senate Office Building to call for the end of the partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22.

The protesters observed a moment of silence that lasted 33 minutes, marking the 33 days of the government shutdown, according to The Hill. Following the moment of silence, protesters began chanting: “No more food banks; they need paychecks.”

ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL | In response to the ongoing partial government shutdown, more than 300 protesters held a moment of silence in the Hart Senate Office Building on Wednesday.

Occupy Hart was organized by the National Federation of Federal Employees, a national union of government workers, along with other local organizations representing federal workers. NFFE represents 110,00 federal employees across the United States, as well as members of the foreign service.

The purpose of the protest was to urge the federal government, specifically Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to pass legislation to the end the shutdown, according to NFFE communications director Brittany Holder.

“We wanted to really keep the pressure up on the Senate, especially Mitch McConnell, just because we wanted him to call a vote,” Holder said in an interview with the Hoya. “We are telling people — federal employees who are at home using more heat than they usually would, more electricity than they usually would — come get warm at Hart.”

Occupy Hart follows a Jan. 10 protest , which was also organized by the NFFE, at the AFL-CIO building, according to The Washington Post.

The government has been shut down since Dec. 22 as President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats face off on immigration. Democrats rejected Trump’s offer to temporarily postpone his executive action to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from some countries in Latin America and Africa in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding. Both parties had hoped to agree on legislation to end the shutdown this week, but failed to reach a compromise.

The Senate voted down two competing bills to fund the government Thursday. Senate Republicans’ bill offered TPS and provided funding for the border wall, while Senate Democrats submitted a bill that would fund the government until Feb. 8 without border wall funding.

The Georgetown Solidarity Committee, a club that advocates for workers’ rights, stands with the protesters and hopes to see a more forceful organizing among federal workers to end the shutdown, according to club member Obed Ventura (SFS ’19), who attended the protest in solidarity with the federal workers.

“This shutdown, on its 33rd day, has been denying people their wages for their labor; the ability to work; and the funding for housing, food, and other basic needs,” Ventura wrote in a message to The Hoya. “We admire the bravery of the workers to protest for an end to the shutdown and to get their paychecks.”

The federal government needs to reopen regardless of the state of compromise regarding the border wall, according to Holder.

“Right now our main focus is to get the government open. It’s been closed for way too long,” Holder said. “They can decide what they want to do in regards to the wall while federal employees are still working.”

Furloughed federal workers will have missed their second paycheck since the shutdown began Wednesday night at midnight. Workers have lost about $5,000 each in delayed wages since the government shutdown began, and the shutdown’s direct and indirect costs to the economy have exceeded $1 billion, according to CBS News. Federal employees are especially vulnerable to lapses in paychecks as some earn as little as $27,000.

If the government reopens, federal workers will receive back pay, but workers in the private sector whose jobs depend on the federal government will not be compensated, according to The Washington Post.

The shutdown has caused many individuals and families to struggle with financial instability, Holder said.

“One of our [federal] employees, his wife is recovering from cancer, and he has seven daughters, and he’s a furloughed firefighter who fought in the fires in California back in November,” Holder said. “We have a federal employee, she has $200,000 in school loans, she has a three-year-old who’s in day care.”

Though workers will receive back pay for their days missed, the government shutdown has left many federal employees unable to meet their immediate needs, Holder said.

“Congress and the president signed a bill that said they’re going to be repaid, but it’s kind of like, ‘What do I do right now? Do I pay for my mortgage or do I pay for my health insurance? Do I buy groceries or put gas in my car?’” Holder said.

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