MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the partial government shutdown enters its 29th day, federal workers rallied Saturday in Memphis demanding an end to what has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
Employees say they are struggling to pay their bills and feed their families.
Dozens of employees from several federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration, protested in the cold and rain outside the IRS' Memphis Service Center on Getwell Road.
Protesters chanted things like, “Hey hey, ho ho, government shutdown’s got to go!” and “What do we want? Pay! When do we want it? Now!”
About 1,000 Memphis IRS workers are being forced to go back to work – without pay – as tax filing season nears.
“This shouldn’t be this way. We should be working for the American people and earning our pay," said IRS manager Keir Fitzgerald. “We just want to go back to work.”
Both Fitzgerald and his wife are government employees and say they’re keeping their heads above water for now, but even one more missed paycheck could change everything.
“Robbing Peter to pay Paul as they say," he added.
Gibson Jones, president of the National Treasury Employee's Union Chapter 98, organized Saturday's rally.
“People don’t know when their next paycheck is gonna come, so they’re worried about mortgage, rent, electric and so forth and so on," he said. "And it’s a disservice to the public for public servants to have to go and ask for food stamps, unemployment, assistance through the food bank.”
Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) was at the protest and had strong words for President Trump, who ordered the shutdown in December over a lack of funding for his promised border wall.
“This is a tremendous sacrifice that these people are making and the president doesn’t seem to care," he said. "And meanwhile, he sends Melania to Florida on a military plane that costs $35,000 each way. There’s something wrong.”
About 17,000 government employees in Memphis are either furloughed or working for free until Congress and the president can reach a deal, but with neither side backing down, it seems no end is in sight.