‘We are not sacrificial,’ Regional VP of government workers union on looming shutdown

Missouri Rep. Luetkemeyer calls GOP standstill ‘unfortunate’
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 5:34 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOV) - Tens of thousands of Missourians could indefinitely stop getting a paycheck if Congress doesn’t break a budget impasse by midnight on Sept. 30.

If funding for the federal government expires, paychecks for federal workers as well as non-essential government services will be halted. Operations such as the postal service, border protection, federal law enforcement and air traffic control will not be affected. Also, social security and Medicare benefits will still be distributed, but enrollment in such programs will be much slower or stopped due to reduced staffing levels.

A shutdown will affect more than 35,000 civilian federal employees in Missouri. It would also: Force all national parks to close, stop all research at the National Institutes of Health, pause the hiring of new federal employees, and halt the processing of U.S. passports. Citizens would likely not be able to get ahold of their congressional representative during a shutdown, as the staff who answer those messages would be furloughed.

The last government shutdown was during the Trump administration in December 2018, which lasted 35 days, the longest in the nation’s history.

“We had over 800,000 government employees go five weeks without a paycheck, bills stacked up, resources were lost, it was very impactful and hard for their families,” Diana Hicks, National Vice President of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Amid the last shutdown, Congress passed a law that automatically provides federal workers with backpay in the event of a shutdown. Still, Hicks said many federal employees are not in a position to be able to go without pay for even two weeks.

“We touch the daily lives of every single American has government employees from providing veterans their healthcare to issuing social security checks,” Hicks said. “And right there alone. Everybody has somebody in their family that is touched by that.”

In a radio interview Thursday, Republican Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer said of some members of his GOP colleagues, “Some of these guys want a shutdown and they’re going to try to block everything that we do to make sure we get there and that’s unfortunate.”

Hicks said federal workers should not be used as a pressure tactic in budget talks.

“No American citizen in the workforce should be a political pawn for congressional leaders and their internal disputes based on party, based on beliefs. We are not sacrificial.”

Funding for the federal government officially runs out at midnight Sept. 30.