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By Dareh Gregorian
Hundreds of furloughed government workers and contractors descended on the White House on Thursday to plead to be allowed to return to work.
Holding signs such as “Stop the war on workers” and “We want work, not walls,” the protesters assembled in the bitter cold outside of AFL-CIO union headquarters before making their way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
President Donald Trump wasn’t at the White House, but many of the protesters blamed him for the shutdown, which has now stretched in to its 20th day with no end in sight. Congress and the president have been locked in a stalemate over his demand for $5.7 billion to build a border wall that he’d said Mexico would pay for.
Over 800,000 workers have been affected by the partial government shutdown, which will become the longest in the country’s history by Saturday.
“I’d like the shutdown to end. I’d like to go back to my job,” said Matthew Chrichton, a 32-year-old staffer for the Peace Corps, adding that he’d moved to Washington for his job four months ago and “living in DC is expensive.”
“I have rent to pay,” he said. “I have bills I need to pay. I want to go to work, and I can’t because they can’t figure out how to fund the government.”
Others pointed the finger at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has declined to take up spending bills passed by the Democratic-controlled House to reopen government without paying for a wall.
J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said McConnell should do his “damn job and let there be a vote.” Workers chanted “get us paid.”
“Please let us go back to work, we’re hungry. We’re running out of money and it’s not about any party,” said Trina Ford, who’s worked for the IRS for 26 years, in Ogden. “I’m a committed employee. I commit to the government. I don’t want to not be paid.”
She said her daughter works at the agency as well, and has two young kids of her own.
“Usually, mama can help out. Mama can’t help her out this time,” Ford said. “It’s killing me.”
Scores of demonstrators also turned out outside of a federal building in Lower Manhattan.
One, Yocasta DeJesus, an EPA project manager, told NBC New York her husband was recently laid off, and now her family has no income as they raise two children in Jersey City.
“Right now, we’re spending only on food, whatever bills we can pay,” she said.
DeJesus was angered about Trump’s comments that furloughed workers would just have to “make adjustments.”
“I don’t understand what kind of adjustment he was referring to,” she said. “How can you adjust when you don’t have any money to pay bills for food? What kind of adjustment you going to do?”
While Trump missed the protest in Washington, he was greeted by hundreds of demonstrators in McAllen, Texas, where he was visiting the border.
Associated Press and Vaughn Hillyard contributed.