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Local Federal Workers Express Exasperation With Government Shutdown

Emily Nipps
Tampa International Airport
Rep. Castor Speaks with Rob Hoss of the NATCA

Representatives Kathy Castor, D-Tampa and Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg joined a host of local federal workers at Tampa International Airport Tuesday to talk about the government shutdown and its continuing effects.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative Rob Hoss said the shutdown has the potential to devestate his family. His wife is also a federal employee and neither of them will receive a paycheck this coming Friday if the government does not reopen.

“My wife and I are both not getting paid this paycheck so it hits twice as hard,” Hoss explained. “I have a mortgage. I have daycare that I have to pay. I have to get two cars to and from work.”

Some workers are relying on resources like the food bank set up at TIA to fill the void.

Castor admonished the Trump administration for insisting federal employees work without receiving pay. These employees, she stated, are worried about not being able to pay their bills, which could distract them while on the job.

“There is no reason that the United States government should be closed for business,” Castor said. “We have the capacity and the ability to negotiate and to get things done for the American people. The bottom line is the federal government must be opened right away and our federal workers must be paid.”

Across party lines, safety has become a key issue for reopening the government. According to Castor, employees who are currently working without pay include those doing jobs that are critical to the safety of American citizens.

“We’re talking about our transportation security agents. We’re talking about FBI agents, our customs and boarder officials. We’re talking about the federal courts,” she said.

Federal prison employees are also included in the roll call. Joe Rojas, President of the Council of Prison Locals for the American Federation of Government Employees, spoke of the dangers of a prison guard’s job and expressed his anger that the employees he represents must work in such conditions without pay.

“On a daily basis, we have to work between 8 and 16 hours watching America’s most dangerous criminals,” Rojas explained. “We implore that both Congress and the president get together and meet to end this shutdown.”

Credit Emily Nips / Tampa International Airport
Tampa International Airport
Federal workers pick up food from the food bank at TIA

As the shutdown drags on, more and more workers are seeking work elsewhere. Rojas said he doesn’t blame them.

“A lot of my colleagues are applying for second jobs after working 8 and 16 hour days,” he said. "We’re not a bargaining chip. We’re not playing a game of chicken with our paychecks and with our lives.”

Rojas also voiced his outrage that the Trump administration and Congress have made no movement toward a resolution.

“I'm frustrated now. I'm angry, because I don't see any urgency on either side to negotiate on our behalf, and like I've said over and over again: that's un-American.”

Castor and Crist said that Democrats are doing their best to negotiate and need Republicans to come to the table.

“Every time we’ve passed bills to reopen the government in the House, they’ve been bipartisan,” Castor said. “Now it is time for Senator Mitch McConnell to come out of hiding and bring these bills up in the U.S. Senate and send them to President Trump. The president must reopen this government, and he must reopen it immediately.”

Nicole Slaughter Graham is a WUSF Stephen Noble Intern for the 2019 spring semester.
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