Capitol Alert

‘I can’t afford gas in my car:’ Furloughed federal workers protest at Sacramento airport

After 26 days working without pay because of the federal government shutdown, Susan Braverman of Sacramento says she’s near her “breaking point.”

“Money is tight,” said Braverman, a lead transportation security officer at Sacramento International Airport. I maybe have a couple more weeks left of money before I’m no longer able to pay for childcare.”

On Wednesday she joined a group of about 30 furloughed federal workers, allies, and elected officials in front of the Sacramento International Airport to protest what has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Union leaders and workers said the shutdown is causing serious harm to the employees.

“It’s wrong to make people work without knowing if they’re ever going to get a paycheck. That’s not what this country is about,” said James Mudrock, president of Local 1230, which represents TSA workers in Sacramento and across California.

About 800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay because President Donald Trump has been unable to strike an agreement with lawmakers to fund the wall on the Mexican border that he promised during his 2016 campaign.

Thousands of workers have been recalled to duty this week, including employees at the Internal Revenue Service and the Farm Services Agency. They’ll work without pay until the shutdown ends.

Local TSA workers missed their first paycheck on Jan.15, for what would’ve been two weeks of work.

Other airports around the U.S. have reported that TSA employees have been calling in sick at higher rates since the shutdown began. Sacramento workers say they haven’t noticed that trend.

But Kelly Eaves, a transportation security officer, said Sacramento employees might find themselves unable to get to work simply because they’re running out of money. “If this continues, I know several officers who won’t be able to put gas in their car and therefore will not be able to report to work.”

Eaves says working without pay has made it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. “I love my job. I’m still nice and I’m still kind, I’m efficient and I do my job, but inside I don’t know if I’m going to be able to come to work next week because I can’t afford gas in my car,” she said. “I can’t afford to continue coming to work to a place where I can’t get paid.”

In addition to TSA workers, the group of protesters included representatives for furloughed federal workers in other parts of the government, like federal corrections and the Coast Guard.

Phil Miedema, an internal consultant for the Coast Guard, was planning to retire in December. He delayed his plans because of the shutdown.

“My retirement is being held because the people that process it have been furloughed,” he said. He said he has been cutting back wherever possible while he waits for his paperwork to be processed. “I’m not spending money. I almost feel like I need to go to the Food Bank because groceries cost money.”

If the shutdown extends longer, workers are saying that they may have make other plans. With an 8-year-old son to support, Braverman says that she may have to look elsewhere for work. “At this point in time I’ll flip burgers - I’ve got to keep my family afloat.”