Civilian employees at Madigan Army Medical Center took their frustration with the government shutdown to the streets on Saturday.
Eight members of the union that represents furloughed workers at Madigan spent the morning walking up and down Pacific Avenue in Spanaway, talking to small-business owners about the impacts of the shutdown and urging them to call their congressional representatives.
“Local businesses are going to hurt,” said Bryan Diesch, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1502. “The military is the second-largest employer in Pierce County. If people stop spending money, they will feel it.”
Active-duty military personnel are automatically exempt from the shutdown, but about 350,000 of the Defense Department’s civilian workforce of 800,000 was ordered to stay home.
At Madigan, Diesch said, approximately 600 AFGE workers were sent home on furlough last week, and the rest of the Medical Center’s 2,600 unionized employees have been working with no guarantee of being paid.
The union members were mostly preaching to the choir in Spanaway, where many business owners are former military members themselves or rely heavily on military families as customers.
“I agree 100 percent,” said Holly Barraugh, a bartender at Uncle Sam’s American Bar & Grill. “I’m talking to customers every day that aren’t working and have nothing coming in.”
Barraugh obligingly tacked up on the bar’s notice board a yellow $25 bill of “Furlough Bucks,” phony currency distributed by the union to draw attention to the plight of its members.
“That’s the money we’re not spending at your business because we don’t have it,” Diesch told her.
As AFGE members were working the streets Saturday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that he would recall to work almost all of the 350,000 DoD civilian employees who had been sent home when the government shut down.
In a statement released Saturday, Hagel said that government lawyers said that under the Pay Our Military Act, the Defense Department could “eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693