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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Picketers protest shutdown

  • Federal employees picketed in Leavenworth Thursday, saying they want the government shutdown to end.
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  • Federal employees picketed in Leavenworth Thursday, saying they want the government shutdown to end.
    "They need to stop playing with government workers and using us as pawns," Jennifer Gum said.
    She is the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 85, which represents employees at the Eisenhower VA Medical Center in Leavenworth.
    The VA hospital has remained in operation since the partial shutdown of the U.S. government began Oct. 1. But Gum said the shutdown impacts other areas of the community.
    Her husband works for the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth. She said he's been working at the USP during the shutdown, but he's not getting paid.
    Gum was joined by employees of various federal agencies Thursday including members of other AFGE chapters. They picketed along South Fourth Street near Ray Miller Park and the VA hospital.
    Shortly before noon, there were about 10 people among the picketers. But Gum said the group's numbers would vary. She said some employees only would be able to join the picket during their lunch breaks.
    The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill designed to provide back pay to furloughed employees. But Gum said employees are in need of paychecks now. She said they have mortgages, car payments and other expenses.
    She said the shutdown is affecting more than the people who aren't receiving paychecks. She said the economy is impacted as federal employees have less money to spend.
    "We're not going out to eat," she said. "We're not spending as much."
    Gum said federal lawmakers need to pass a "clean" bill to fund the federal government with no strings attached.
    Roy Carroll, a member of a local Disabled American Veterans chapter, said he was participating in Thursday's picket because of concerns about the shutdown hurting the claims process for disabled veterans.
    "So we're just looking for someone to fulfill the promise they made to the folks they asked to go to war," he said.
    Margie Wakefield, a Democrat who's running for Congress in Kansas' 2nd District, visited with the picketers Thursday. She said she was there to show support and send a message for the government to end the shutdown.
    When the shutdown began last week, most of the civilian employees at Fort Leavenworth were placed on unpaid furlough. But most of the fort's furloughed employees returned to work this week and are now being paid, according to Lt. Col. James Lowe, public affairs officer for the Combined Arms Center.

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