Amid growing calls for federal workers to walk off the job in protest as President Donald Trump continues to hold their paychecks hostage and downplay their financial hardship, government employees rallied outside of the Washington Nationals' ballpark in the frigid D.C. weather on Thursday to demand an end to the government shutdown as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his fellow Republicans held a "retreat" inside the stadium.
"Clearly McConnell thinks his lavish retreat is more important than 800,000 families," declared the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), one of several unions that took part in the demonstration.
Facing severe economic pain from the shutdown—which is now the longest in U.S. history—the workers called on McConnell to immediately allow a vote on House-passed legislation that would reopen the government and put an end to the pervasive financial anxiety and safety risked posed by the lapse in federal funding.
"It's past time for McConnell to call the vote instead of partying with his colleagues at Nationals stadium," the AFL-CIO wrote on Twitter.
— Teamsters (@Teamsters) January 17, 2019
— AFGE (@AFGENational) January 17, 2019
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Long-time activist and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich—who co-authored a New York Times op-ed on Monday urging low-paid Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers to strike—echoed her call in an interview with Democracy Now! on Thursday, arguing that public employees are "being treated in a mean and humiliating fashion."
"If enough airport workers were to either walk away from the job or go on strike, that would shut down the airports. And that would be—that would just shut down the economy."
"And our point is, don't just take this lying down," Ehrenreich said. "When Trump said this week, essentially, 'You can come back to work, but, you know, you'll get paid at some point, we can't tell you exactly when, when the shutdown is over,' that's not how you respectfully treat American workers."
"And if enough airport workers were to either walk away from the job or go on strike, that would shut down the airports," she continued. "And that would be—that would just shut down the economy. They couldn't, we wouldn’t, I think even Trump wouldn't let that last for more than a few hours."
On top of the financial concerns of airport employees, a representative of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association warned on Wednesday that the shutdown has made flying far less safe and heightened the possibility of a "catastrophic event."
Acknowledging that federal law prohibits government employees from striking, Ehrenreich pointed to technically illegal teacher strikes throughout the nation last year and declared, "you have to go ahead anyway."
In a tweet on Thursday, People's Policy Project founder Matt Bruenig suggested that congressional Democrats "should promise that they will protect any federal worker who strikes in the legislation that ends the shutdown."