Local federal workers rally for end to shutdown

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va.-(WTAP) On a snowy, cold Thursday afternoon, a union representing federal employees held a rally at Parkersburg's Bicentennial Park to call for an end to the federal shutdown that has resulted in their members working, but not getting paid for it.

But not all those at the rally were federal workers. One is a Vietnam veteran, retired from a private sector job, who believes the shutdown and the reasons for it are unnecessary.

"I cannot find any reason why 535 people cannot get together and reach funding agreements," said Larry Block, who is retired and living in Belpre.

Local 190 of the National Treasury Employees Union held the rally.

Among its members: people who work at the Bureau of Fiscal Service, long known as the Bureau of Public Debt in downtown Parkersburg.

But the organization also represents other federal employees, including those whose job is border security.

"Those employees who are furloughed still have to patrol the border, they still have to do their everyday work," said Local President Wayne Clements. "Yet. there's going to be no paycheck until this thing ends."

And, who say they contribute to the local community, both economically and socially.

"There's all kinds of things we do, to give back to everyone that we can," said federal worker Eric Engle. "And when we're not working, we're not able to do the money to do that."

This event came one day before workers are scheduled-and not likely-to get paychecks.

"If a big box store decided not to pay their employees because of a conflict within management," said Aubrey Sparks, of the legal advocacy group Mountain State Justice, "I doubt that the government would be fine with those people being paid with IOU's."

Members of Congress representing the local area are commenting as well.

1st District West Virginia Republican Congressman David McKinley is calling on both parties to "stop digging in their heels" and work toward a solution.

But McKinley adds the money President Trump is asking for the border wall is a tenth of what was approved more than a decade ago to secure the border.

And Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown says more than federal workers are affected by the dispute.

"It's the small businesses around the installations," Brown said. "It's the farmers who depend on the Department of Agriculture, it's people who need to buy a house who need the approval of their mortgage. It's those kind of government services that have been shut down, too."

Brown met earlier this week with federal workers affected by the shutdown.

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin says he also plans to speak with affected workers this weekend, while visiting food banks across the state.