WASHINGTON – Federal government workers rallied Tuesday on Capitol Hill to protest impending budget cuts and the threat to jobs that could occur as soon as the end of the month.
If Congress and President Barack Obama do not agree on a budget by March 1, the federal government will face an automatic slash in federal spending. Medicare, Social Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the FDA are among agencies that would see reductions to their budgets.
American Federation of Government Employees National President David Cox, Sr. said at the rally, named “Jobs, Not Cuts,” that 1.5 million government jobs could be lost if sequestration occurs.
Cox said the only people that deserve to lose their jobs are those who would allow the sequestration to kick in. The union leader spoke to a crowd of about 1,500 AFGE and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees members in Upper Senate Park on the north side of the Capitol.
Loren Zeilnhofer, 55, of Watertown, N.Y., said the government is trying to vilify its employees, claiming they are “sucking the government dry.” Working as an environmental protection specialist for the U.S. Army, he said he makes between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.
If the across-the-board budget cuts occur, Zeilnhofer said he will face a 22-day unpaid furlough. He said it was “unconscionable” that the failure of members of Congress to cooperate could victimize federal employees.
“I’ve seen five-year-olds get along better,” he said.
Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO, which represents many government workers, said if workers get laid off, the union will send them to unemployment offices to collect jobless benefits. “It’s a beautiful idea, and it’s called the American Dream,” Trumka said, “and we’re going to have our share.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., were slated to speak at the rally, but both were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.