Union president explains how uncertainty of looming shutdown affects more than just federal workers

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala – Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. raced against the clock Thursday to avoid a government shutdown as Republicans and Democrats grapple with disagreements over government spending and raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

The House and Senate passed a bill to temporarily fund the government and avert a shutdown.

A shutdown generally results in furloughs and missed paychecks for federal workers. Abner Merriweather, Local AFGE 1858 Chapter President, says certain federal employees are more vulnerable than others during a shutdown. He also points out more people are affected by shutdowns than just those who work for the government.

AFGE Local 1858 represents 11,000 union employees that work on Redstone Arsenal.

“We represent engineers, doctors, lawyers, clerical type workers, so it’s a broad field,” said Merriweather.

A broad field, but Merriweather can easily narrow down how he believes many employees were feeling as the shutdown loomed.

“The uncertainty. And you know all the employees, you know with that uncertainty it causes them not to want to spend,” he stated.

Merriweather says a shutdown can result in furloughs and missed paychecks for federal workers. He says some of the most vulnerable employees are single parents.

“It’s going to have an impact on them day-to-day if they’re not being paid. Even if they’re reimbursed later on it will hurt them in the short term,” he explained.

He also pointed out that he believes the uncertainty doesn’t just affect federal workers, but trickles through the economy.

“We’re already trying to put out the economy from the pandemic. So, now this is going to make it worse because it’s going to hurt the US mom and pop shops,” Merriweather said.

According to officials with AFGE, this could have marked the 4th shutdown since 2018.

“Personally, in my 30 years of federal service, I’ve never seen it this divided. So, with them divided in the House and Senate it will be hard for them to pass anything,” he stated.

He says federal workers are caught in the middle of the partisan clashes in Washington.

“Congressman and the Senate cannot get their act together. They need to step up their game and start working together,” Merriweather said. “Especially on a spending bill. Spending bills should be that hard.”

The bill passed Thursday will keep the government funded until December 3rd.

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