Hundreds of government workers protested outside the White House on Thursday as the partial government shutdown entered its 20th day.
Approximately 800,000 workers have been furloughed or are working without pay after the government shut down Dec. 22 due to disagreements between President TrumpDonald John TrumpGovernment workers protest outside White House on shutdown day 20 Fed chief Powell: Prolonged shutdown will harm US economy Senators say questions remain on Trump strategy in Syria after briefing MORE and congressional Democrats over money for the president’s proposed border wall.
Workers from a variety of federal agencies attended the event, which started in front of the AFL-CIO headquarters and made its way down to the White House.
Several protestors wore bright vests which read “I am a worker, I demand a voice.”
Others expressed their frustration through signs.
One read “My paycheck is not leverage for 45’s racism,” referring to arguments that Trump’s saying there is a crisis at the border is rooted in racist views of Latino people.
Another sign read, “We want work, not walls.”
Workers who spoke at the event focused on a desire to work, but highlighted the difficulties of working without pay.
The head of the National Treasury Employees Union urged politicians to “remove federal employees from the middle of your political fight” and to “treat federal employees with dignity.”
A Federal Aviation Administration employee who has been working through the shutdown without pay explained that beyond the financial difficulties, the shutdown was putting added stress on his family.
He mentioned the difficulty in “having to explain a political stunt to a 5-year-old.”
A National Weather Service employee who drove down to the rally after eight night shifts, wanted to explain the “collateral damage” of the shutdown.
He told a story of a co-worker of his who has suffered from seizures over the past year but is unable to pay for her treatment currently. He added that her doctor had told her stress from the shutdown could cause even more seizures.
“It’s difficult to serve your country when things are unraveling at home,” he concluded.
National Association of Government Employees’ President David Holloway cited Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGovernment workers protest outside White House on shutdown day 20 Budowsky: Warning to Senate Republicans GOP senator knocks Romney: The last thing we need is ‘a Jeff Flake on steroids’ MORE‘s (R-Utah) recent op-ed where he said that the “presidency shapes the public character of the nation” but that Trump had not risen to the task.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersGovernment workers protest outside White House on shutdown day 20 Sanders apologizes amid harassment allegations against 2016 campaign aide Sanders, Dems unveil sweeping bills to lower drug prices MORE (I-Vt.) also briefly spoke to protestors before marching on the White House, thanking them for “standing up for justice.”
He said it was “unbelievable we have a president willing to deny services” and urged Trump to “grow up, do your job and end this shutdown.”
Trump met with congressional leaders Wednesday, but reportedly left 20 minutes in after it became clear the two sides were at an impasse.