Lockout Hurting Country

In what opinion polls show voters view as a political ploy playing to his right-wing base, GOP President Donald Trump declared his shutdown of at least one-fourth of U.S. government agencies – and his lockout of hundreds of thousands of workers – will last for months or years. And that’s despite the pain he’s inflicting on the whole country.       

That pain stretches from trash-littered – and closed — national parks, to people going without food stamps and kids lacking school lunches next month, to air travelers already facing longer lines as unpaid airport screeners call in saying they can’t afford to get to work. And environmental enforcement came to a dead halt: 13,000 EPA workers were furloughed.

Trump attempted to justify his shutdown/lockout by arguing for his Mexican Wall in a nationally televised speech on Jan. 8. Starting at midnight Dec. 21, he closed down several Cabinet departments – including Transportation, Housing, Interior and Justice – plus the Environmental Protection Agency and many other federal offices. 

He says he won’t reopen them until Congress surrenders, giving him at least $5.7 billion for his wall, which he claims, falsely, will stop an “invasion” – his words — of Latin Americans.

Union leaders and lawmakers, including the Democrats who now run the U.S. House, respond “no way” to his demand for the wall, which many voters view as racist. 

“It’s time for POTUS to end his political stunt and allow federal workers to go back to work. Many of them live paycheck to paycheck and not getting paid is creating the real national emergency, not some made-up crisis at our southern border,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., tweeted.

Speier and her Democratic colleague, Jared Huffman, joined volunteers on Jan. 5-6 at San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area in picking up the trash National Park Service workers – one of many groups of workers Trump locked out and sent home – normally would gather. Then she took the trash to D.C. to dump on the White House lawn.

“Ending the government shutdown and putting people back to work must be the highest and only priority of the Senate,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Jan. 7 after the House passed two money bills on Jan. 3 to get government going again. Trump had furloughed – locked out – 380,000 workers and ordered another 420,000 to toil without pay.

And Capt. Joe DePete, the new president of the 61,000-member Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) bluntly warned Trump in a letter to the White House his shutdown/lockout threatens air safety (see separate story).  

“I’ve sent letters to the White House and congressional leaders calling for an immediate end to the government #shutdown because the safety, security and the efficiency of our national airspace is being impacted,” DePete tweeted.

 Trump also froze all rank-and-file 2.1 million federal workers’ pay for this calendar year, locked out or not. His Cabinet got raises of at least $10,000, though, and the lockout won’t stop their checks.

Though Trump locked out the workers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., won’t let them back in. He says the House-passed bills – including money for the Park Service (Interior Department), food stamps and school lunches (Agriculture Department) and the screeners (Transportation Department) – won’t come up because Trump won’t sign them.

The House decided to call McConnell’s bluff during the week of Jan. 7 by splitting up the omnibus bill covering every shut-down agency but the Homeland Security Department into six separate “normal” money bills.

Those measures duplicate last year’s GOP-passed money bills, putting the onus on the Senate and Trump. A separate bill would fund Homeland Security, where Trump wants to put his Mexican Wall money, for the next month – with nothing for the wall.

“If the GOP wants a wall so badly, they can try to propose and pass a bill like anybody else,” tweeted new Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “Instead, they are seizing gov operations + innocent people’s pay until they get what they want.”

“This is called hostage-taking. And no one can compromise or negotiate with that.”

“Every day this senseless and manufactured crisis drags on, real families with very real bills are harmed and millions are denied the vital services we deserve. Politicians need to do their job and allow us to do ours,” Trumka stated.

A Trumka tweet, citing Trump’s original vow to get Mexico to pay for the wall, added: “Mexico was never going to pay for the wall that won’t uplift workers anyway. Now Trump’s holding US workers hostage and wants taxpayers to foot the bill. Say no.”

The Democrats had offered $1.3 billion-$1.6 billion for increased border security, but are adamant about providing nothing for the wall. Trump’s base doesn’t know he’s spent less than 10 percent of prior wall money. But its racists and anti-Latinos love the wall, and his bombast.

“He cannot stumble, falter or fail in making good on that fundamental promise about” building the Mexican Wall, Bradley Blakeman, a so-called “contributor” to Trump’s mouthpiece, Fox News, wrote in a Jan. 7 opinion column in The Hill. “The president’s current battle to make good on his promise leaves him no option but to make good on it. He is in far worse shape if he caves than if he stands his ground on the government shutdown.” 

“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing. I don’t call it a shutdown,” Trump said on a tape one Sunday news show rolled. Previously, he even tried to blame the federal workers, by calling his shutdown/ lockout “a strike.” That’s a Trump lie: Feds can’t legally strike. Besides, unions call strikes; bosses, like Trump, impose lockouts.