Father Pfleger, Rev. Jackson call for end of government shutdown

Union workers call GOP ‘fiscal terrorists’

By Chinta Strausberg

At a press conference held Tuesday at the Federal Plaza, 219 South Dearborn, Father Michael L. Pfleger, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Cook County Clerk David Orr and Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) joined scores of angry government workers in calling on the public to pressure congress to end the government shutdown with some activists calling the GOP “fiscal terrorists.”

Father Pfleger asked the public to call House Speaker John Boehner at 202.225.6205. He is angry that Boehner and the Tea Party members are holding the government “hostage” in an attempt to get President Obama to change the Affordable Health Care Act better known as Obamacare.

Jackson, who turned 72 on Tuesday, cited a list of federal cutbacks like food, housing, education and housing and said, “America must not shrink to this challenge to the American health care act.”

Also present was Pastor Ira Acree, co-chair of the Leaders Network, who said, “I think it is a shame that we are witnessing in 2013 institutionalized gangsterism from the right wingers in Congress. It’s deplorable that we’ve allowed hatred for the working poor, disdain for the disenfranchised and outright antipathy for a sitting president to lead to the government being hijacked by the Tea party. And it’s unfortunate because $10 billions a week is being lost because of this buffoonery they are engaging in,” said Acree.

“It is now time that we stop calling it Obamacare and call it Affordable Care Act. the law that makes sure that the 48 million preciously robbed of their healthcare right, now have access to it.

“I am hoping that the Speaker of the House will feel the pressure and call the vote because he should not hold the American people hostage. This is hurting a lot of people. Medicaid is being taken from people who need it the most   Many people are being affected by the government shutdown. People are at risk….even those who are serving our country. The soldiers are not able to watch the sports in America because of the government shutdown and that is sad,” Acree said.

Joining the leaders was a federal employee for38-years. Ken Jones, 56, a father of two who is the local president of Local375 and Council President for Council 57 American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), is one of several union officials upset with Republicans who continue to hold the nation “hostage.” They’re calling on the public to call congress and tell them to “release the hostages” and to “do their jobs.”

Referring to federal employees, Jones said, “We are not appreciated. We took an oath to uphold the Constitution and to provide good service to the American public but unfortunately I think that has fallen on deaf ears with the Congress because we have been given three years of our salaries and our benefits. “And they are constantly trying to create surtaxes where they are forcing federal employees to take a five percent and to their pensions which is a five percent pay cut for us….”

“We all have families,” Jones said. He has two daughters in college and is paying their tuition. “Just yesterday, I had to call Comcast and ask for a delay in paying my bill because of this shut down…..

“We are fighting over 48 million individuals who are entitled to affordable health care under the law. It has been passed by the congress and now they want to hold it hostage for federal employees. They consider us as bureaucrats, but we are not. We are civil servants. I am working for the public, not for the congress or the senate,” Jones said.

He is bothered that while the congress has halted their pay, they are still getting their paychecks. “We’re talking about a shutdown and they’re piecemealing everything back together. What they are doing is sending a false message to the American public…. They are trying to do this with smoke and mirrors.”

And, Jones, who is software developer, is really upset that federal contractors “are still getting paid billions and billions of dollars and that is not fair,” he said. “You are holding federal employees hostage. You’re holding the 48 million Americans who are entitled to affordable health care hostage. Come on, man,” he said.

“We are the ones who are being used as guinea pigs. I have not had a pay increase in three-years which impacts my retirement. Everything goes up but my salary continues to go down so let’s blame it on the employees…,” Jones said.

He referred to an advisor to President Bush who said, “He wants to shrink government down to the size where he can drag it into the bathtub and drown it….” A Navy veteran, Jones said, “I served my country well. This shutdown irritates me even more. Here I did for my country but look at what Congress is doing to me. I want to go back to work….”

Jesse Rios, retired federal employee and past president of Local 648 representing the U.S. Department of Labor in the Midwest, accused the Republicans of “clearly holding America hostage and federal workers are the ones who are suffering now, but by the end of next week if this thing is not settled, America will suffer,” he warned.

Referring to the states that receive federal funds for unemployment, Rios said they would be affected as well those who get LINK cards and won’t be able to buy food. “That money will run out. How will they feed their children when they come home from school, and schools will also be affected?

“It’s a hostage situation that the terrorist Republicans, the Tea Party in Washington are holding America hostage,” said Rios. “They are fiscal terrorists. Let’s take away their pay, their jobs and let them sit home for six-months and think about what they want to do. That is what they are going to do with us. If I were president of the U.S., I’d shut the whole country down and let them know who is to blame.”

Referring to House Speaker John Boehner, Rios said,there are enough votes, including his own peers, and Democrats willing to votefor a clean bill. “He’s got to do that. Either way, his life is over as chairman of the House.”

Explaining, Rios said, “In 2014, we will begin to elect more Democrats to the House who will represent the people of America. All congress has to respect us as a union, respect us as a human being and our families.”

Rios said the next battle would come after October 18th “when they have the next fight over the deficit. If they don’t raise the cap and the government defaults, the money will not be there.

He called on the public to call congress and tell them “to get off their butts and work. Do your job. What bill have they passed in the last two-years that helped America? If it weren’t for Obama who fought for health care…this country has been fighting for this for the past 40-years, the Affordable Health Care Act would never have passed,” said Rios.

“People in Europe, in Canada have health care. What is wrong with these people that they don’t understand all we’re talking about is providing service and health care for our seniors, our children and families in this country”? asked Rios.

Brent Barron, president of AFGE LOCAL 648, is also upset with the Boehner who he says comes from a “small faction of the Republican Party who is hell bent on shutting this government down…destroying this government and in their eyes putting this country into some economic tailspin that they can lay at the feet of the president. They want the president to fail. That’s their intent to make Barack Obama a failure.”

He says the answer is to put pressure on congressso they can go back to work. “The federal employees didn’t intend to get into the middle of this political battle between the Republicans and the Democrats and the Whitehouse,” said Barron. “We’ve been used as pawns, scapegoats. All we want to do is to come back and do our jobs.”

Pointing to the John C. Kluczynski Federal Building at 230 So. Dearborn, Barron said, “If you look at this building, it’spractically empty. All the people in that building were sent home Tuesday. I work for an agency that requires me to come into this building and continue to work without pay until a budget deal is passed.

“I’m here working on my job but about 95 percent ofthe people I represent are gone. They’re at home. They want to come back to work, but they’re being told they can’t come back down here. They can’t even think about coming back and that is not right,” Barron said.

Dorothy James, a national vice president for the American Federation of Government Employees  (AFGE) representing Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin, is outraged over the government shutdown. She and other union members passed out flyers saying, “CALL CONGRESS NOW. “End the Government Lockout”! “Repeal the Sequestration”! TOLL FREE 1-888-775-3148.

Tuesday’s rally, James said, brings attention to the plight of federal workers she labeled “pawns” by politicians.

Federal workers, James said, “are stressed out,upset and angry. They want to work and they can’t and feel they are constantly used as pawns, constantly the low hanging fruit in this financial debate of Congress and the Tea Party. We don’t like it. We want to go back to work but until they come to their senses and congress, we’re shut out.

“When it comes to Congress and their ability to cutand adjust the budget, they look at federal employment and our benefits before they look any place else. We are the low hanging fruit. We are the juiciest fruit on the vine to cut, to lower our wages, to declassify our jobs, to furlough and to eliminate our jobs all together,” said James.  Explaining,she said, “In any situation where you have cuts, it’s the people who are on the lowest rung of the ladder who will feel the cuts. Who ever have the ability to

cut is going to push it further away from themselves. That’s always been thecase and always will be. The people who make less will end up making nothing or even less.”

Audrey Davis, a retired teacher and president of A. Davis Consulting, said she is very disturbed that “Republicans are determined to prevent President Obama from ruling. We went through that with Mayor Harold Washington,” she said referring to the 29 vs. 21 City Council Wars that only ended when the mayor won the 1986 special elections and gained control of the council.

Referring to the Affordable Health Care Act, Davis said, “We support the president, his policies are we are angry with the Republicans racist obstructionism. It is obvious that they don’t want to accept for the first time we have an African American brilliant president. They don’t want him to rule…. I’m calling a spade a spade.”

Albert Thomas, who is a retired representative for the 7th District American Federation Government Employees (AFGE), said he is very concerned about the federal workers who are out of work. He too supports the Affordable Health Care Act. Referring to President Obama, Thomas said, “He needs the support of the public to fight and get back to work and open up the government.”

Father Pfleger is asking the public to call 202.225.6205 and demand and end to the government shutdown. Union workers are asking you to call the toll free number, 1-888.775.3148, and tell officials to “end the government lockout and to repeal the sequestration now.”

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.