'Open The Government Now!' Demanding End To Shutdown, Federal Workers Rally In Detroit

January 10, 2019 - 4:15 pm

DETROIT (WWJ) - Voicing their displeasure over the ongoing partial government shutdown, more than 100 federal government employees from across Southeast Michigan gathered in downtown Detroit for a rally. 

Chanting "Open the government now!" frustrated workers gathered in the cold out outside the McNamara Federal Building, saying they want to put a face and the voice to the issue. 

"We're just very frustrated," said Jasmine Laurie of Ecorse, a security screener with the TSA at Detroit Metro Airport. "We're doing our jobs to the best of our ability, and we're being treated like pawns in something that we have no control over." 

Cheryl Monroe, who works as a pharmaceutical chemist for the Food and Drug Administration, said she feels used by leaders in Washington.

"It's not fair; it's not something that I've ever seen before," she told WWJ Newsradio 950's Jon Hewett. "So I would ask both parties to just sit down and think about the people that they're hurting. Not just the federal employees, but everybody that we touch is feeling this -- and it's not fair, and it's not necessary."

The shutdown, which enters its 21st day Friday, will be the longest in history by this weekend and is forcing many American families to make tough decisions. It's especially hard for workers who don't have enough savings to cover their mortgages and other bills.

Around 800,000 federal employees across the nation have been affected.

The Associated Press reports roughly 420,000 federal employees were deemed essential and are working unpaid. An additional 380,000 are staying home without pay. While furloughed federal workers have been given back pay in previous shutdowns, it's not guaranteed that will happen this time. Government contractors, who have been placed indefinitely on unpaid leave, don't get compensated for lost hours.

Most of the government workers received their last paycheck two weeks ago, and Friday will be the first payday with no money.

Brian Kelly, an emergency responder with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) our of Grosse Isle, said he's not sure what to expect going forward. 

"There's a lot of uncertainty, there's a lot of angst in my family about, you know, are we going to be able to get this resolved, when it's going to be resolved," Kelly said. "And on a personal and professional level...I think the work that we do protecting the community is being neglected."

President Donald Trump threatened Thursday to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can't reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall. Trump spent most of the day in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border to draw further attention to his case after negotiations with lawmakers blew up.  

The president has repeatedly said that he won't reopen the government without money for the wall. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.