October 10, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – While rightwing commentators do their level best to dismiss the impact the government shutdown is having on the nation, hardworking men and women who care for America’s heroic veterans here in New York City are already performing their duties without pay – and the Reverend Jesse Jackson is blaming it on an effort by some to “raise the Confederacy again.” Watch Video
“When we have members who don’t do their jobs, they’re terminated,” Cheryl Jones told LaborPress at a rally held at Foley Square on Wednesday. “Congress is not doing their job and they’re going to stay on.”
Jones is one of hundreds of government employes at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ St. Albans Community Living Center in Queens who have been working without pay since last week because of the government shutdown.
“We know people who came to our office the other day from the IT department, who are being furloughed,” Jones added. “They had tears in their eyes. It’s a shame. We’re not rich. We live from paycheck to paycheck. We work for America. We do so much. And yet Congress uses us as their pawns.”
As the shutdown crisis continues to mount, there is little indication this week that Republicans in Congress attempting to condition raising the debt ceiling on rolling back the Affordable Health Care Act, are willing to end the standoff and the resulting shuttering of government facilities and unpaid employees.
“We have to come to work every day to care for the veterans,” said Ena Judd, another worker at the St. Albans Community Living Center. “These veterans can’t help themselves. They went and fought the war, and now they need help. And we are saying the employees have to be there, but can’t get paid?”
According to Elaine Powell-Belnavis, president of the American Federation of Government Employees [AFGE] Local 3134, the federal government shutdown is also stymying the processing of vital small business loans as well.
“We’re trying to get back to work,” Powell-Belnavis said. “We make small business loans and a lot of those loans are not being made to small businesses because there’s nobody there to do it.”
AFGE joined with the New York State AFL-CIO, NYC Central labor Council and the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition at Foley Square to call for an immediate end to the government shutdown.
“This is not the two-year Tea Party,” Jackson told demonstrators. “This is the Ft. Sumter Tea Party.”
In likening proponents of the shutdown to neo-Confederates who think “shutting down the government is a virtue,” Jackson said the ongoing effort to undermine the Affordable Healthcare Act is actually based on ideology rooted in "hatred, racism, gender bias and labor oppression."
“They tried to stop the government with a Civil War to maintain slavery and destroy the union,” Jackson continued. “We didn’t allow them to maintain slavery and destroy the union. They tried to stop the government under Lincoln and they failed. They’re trying to stop it under President Obama – and they will fail again.”