San Francisco unions and community demand, ‘No More Shutdowns!’
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

OAKLAND, Calif. – As unionists and supporters rallied around the country Jan. 25 to support locked-out federal workers, union and community members gathered at Oakland International Airport, with air traffic controllers, baggage screeners, Environmental Protection Agency workers, Coast Guard members and others who were enduring President Trump’s unprecedented 35-day partial government shutdown.

Just before the rally started, word came that the president had backed down and agreed to end the shutdown for three weeks while negotiations continue over border security issues including Trump’s demands for a “wall” on the border with Mexico.

But the unionists at the rally organized by the Alameda, San Francisco and San Mateo Labor Councils weren’t taken in by the president’s move. Instead, they vowed to keep up pressure so that such shutdowns never happen again.

“Does that end the uncertainty for federal workers who aren’t getting paid?” Ian Hoffman, legislative and political organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees, asked the crowd.

“NO!” roared the crowd. “No more shutdowns! Too little, too late!”

Hoffman told them, “Three weeks doesn’t mean shit to people who are suffering right now, who are driving for Uber, or going to work at the Transportation Security Administration and doing forced overtime, or to people who are furloughed right now and trying to support their families.

“So nothing is over, this is going on, and we are going to keep coming out here until this president is gone!”

Liz Ortega-Toro, executive secretary-treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council, thanked the 800,000 workers “who have kept the country going … without a paycheck, with food insecurity, without knowing if they’re going to pay their rent.”

Those workers should not be held hostage, she said. “This shutdown has to end permanently!”

Julie Lind Rupp, who heads the San Mateo Labor Council, added, “We don’t just want a pause in the shutdown, we want an end to the shutdown. Please stop playing politics with people’s lives and livelihoods!”

Impacted workers told their stories.

Said TSA worker Susan Braverman, “I’m afraid I’m going to be right back here in three weeks, protesting another shutdown. My fellow officers and I cannot afford to do this every three weeks. My officers are food insecure, we don’t know how we’re going to pay our car payments, house payments, rents, childcare. We need a better fix, a bipartisan fix.”

U.S. Coast Guard employee Bill Miedema said the 300 workers he represents, based on nearby Coast Guard Island, are “people who go out and save people,” who monitor ships coming into the Port of Oakland – one of the country’s busiest ports.

“They’re suffering,” Miedema said. “What I want to see is a bipartisan effort to make sure shutdowns never happen again!”

As the workers prepared to march through Terminal 1 with their banners and signs, carrying flyers and chanting to make sure all passengers inside heard their demands, Ortega-Toro said she and her fellow labor council leaders and members will spend the next three weeks sharing the stories of the workers who had suffered through the prolonged shutdown.

“The rest of us are watching them go to work every day, and not understanding how they’re doing it, not being paid. We’re going to continue to bring those faces and stories forward, because it’s not about one man dictating and holding them hostage.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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