Well into its third week, the partial federal government shutdown is affecting more than a third of the affiliates of the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO. The funding halt started December 22 when the White House and Congress could not agree on language to extend the budget for 10 cabinet-level departments and other agencies into 2019.
Among the internationals directly involved through representing federal employees are the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and the National Federation of Federal Employees (which is affiliated with the International Association of Machinists). All have members among the 800,000 federal workers who are furloughed or who have been deemed essential and are on the job without pay. The most obvious to many travelling Americans are the AFGE-represented Transportation Security Officers found at airport security screening stations across the country.
In a lawsuit filed by AFGE on December 31, the union claimed the federal government is violating the law by requiring people to work without pay.
“Federal workers want to go back to work,” stated AFGE President J. David Cox, an MTD Executive Board Member. “They believe in their mission and want to provide quality services to the American people.”
But the shutdown is reaching areas affecting the daily activities of other union members trying to do their jobs.
Seafarers Union members are unable to apply for or renew Merchant Mariner’s Credentials because the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center and its related regional examination centers are closed. The U.S. Department of Transportation is part of the shutdown.
As the Department of Justice also is included in the shutdown, a federal court hearing in West Virginia brought on by the United Mine Workers of America regarding mine safety is delayed.
Activities at airports – including the passenger screenings as well as border patrol, customs, and aircraft inspections and certifications – are hampered, which affects members of the Machinists and the Association of Flight Attendants (an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America).Among those working without pay are air traffic controllers.
Building and Construction Trades members cannot perform their duties when they discover the federal buildings where they work are closed. Union-represented contract workers such as janitors and cafeteria workers also are feeling the pinch.
In a call to action on January 7, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared, “Ending the government shutdown and putting people back to work must be the highest and only priority of the U.S. Senate. The AFL-CIO calls on all Senators to reject consideration of any bills or business unrelated to opening the government.
“Every day this senseless and manufactured crisis drags on, real families with very real bills are harmed and millions are denied the vital services we deserve. Politicians need to do their job and allow us to do ours,” Trumka concluded.