New York, NY – Try as they might, federal workers tasked with securing U.S. borders simply cannot understand how kneecapping their agencies in an effort to force Congress to pay for a border wall no one believes will stop illegal immigration, serves the public good.
“It doesn’t make sense to shut down the agencies that are protecting the American public in order try and protect the American public,” Maribeth Dunajski told LaborPress on Wednesday. “And it costing the taxpayers big time. It’s not saving anybody money — it’s costing extra money to do the shutdown.”
Dunajski, was among roughly 100 members of the National Treasury Employees Association [NTEA] and American Federation of Government Employees [AFGE] who turned out this week in front of the IRS’ offices at 290 Broadway to protest Trump’s government shutdown — now in its fourth week.
“I have not worked for 26 days now,” the veteran national import specialist with U.S. Customs & Border Protection said. “We want to do our jobs. It makes no sense to me that the people who are protecting the border…protecting commerce…are not allowed to do our jobs.”
U.S. Customs & Border Protection international trade specialist Stephen Albi, said that part of his job is collecting certain revenues associated with international commerce — vital revenues that the U.S. government will likely never be able to recoup.
“That revenue is not being collected, and laws and regulations are not being enforced,” Albi said. “Commerce is being injured during the time we are out. Even when we go back, it will probably be almost impossible to make up for the lost productivity.”
U.S. Customs & Border Protection employee and Bronx resident Ebbe Manczuk stopped short of calling for Donald Trump’s impeachment — but said the chief executive’s decision to shut down government agencies and deprive as many as 800,000 federal employees a paycheck — “is offensive.”
“It’s uncaring of a leader who’s sworn in to take care of everyone,” Manczuk said. “To withhold the paycheck of regular Joes for what you want — which has more to do with your base — and not encompassing everyone — is not fair. It’s not right.”
This August, Manczuk will mark her 24th year in border protection. The married mother of a nine-month-old said that she and her co-workers are inherently concerned and committed to border security.
“At this point, I feel that [Trump] needs to revisit his vision, or his plan for this wall,” she said. “It is not that we are out here unconcerned about border security — we are concerned about border security. But there are ways of going about achieving things. And part of being in a leadership position is being able to compromise — being able to have a conversation. ‘Mr. Art of The Deal’ seems, apparently, unable to come to the table and have a serious talk.”
Vincent Alvarez, head of the New York City Central Labor Council, said the government shutdown needs to end.
“We know you want to get back to work,” Alvarez said. “We know that this is affecting your families in ways that is not only unfortunate, but wrong. And we need to stop this. This needs to come to an end. The president, the members of Congress, everybody needs to come together and do the right thing to get government back open.”
Now nearing retirement, Dunajski says she doesn’t fear for her own economic survival — but she does worry about those just embarking on their careers.
“My heart goes out to the younger people who have young children,” Dunajski said. “This shutdown also closed the government training schools. I personally know people who have quit their jobs, moved down to Georgia, and the places where the training schools are located, and then have no school to go to — no income; they have no jobs. They left their homes, left their jobs thinking they would get a federal job — and suddenly — they’re left with nothing. They’re having to scrape by on nothing with families and young kids and no salary.”
Gabriel Pedreira, AFGE District 2 legislative and political organizer, also took the Trump administration to task, and talked about growing worker resistance to the government shutdown.
“What this administration has done is try to take away the dignity of working people across this country —that’s wrong,” Pedreira said. “Your work has value. Your work has dignity.”
Might fed up American workers take to the streets in mass demonstrations the way workers have done in Europe?
“It’s possibility,” Pedreira said. “It depends on how long [the shutdown] lasts. This is the longest federal shutdown we’ve ever seen. The longer it goes, the more momentum is going to build.”