The partial shutdown is escalating into a politically driven game of chicken and organized labor has unsurprisingly decided to get involved. One of their main targets is Mitch McConnell who has been trying to stay on the sidelines in recent weeks. According to POLITICO, hundreds of union members, including many furloughed government workers, gathered less than one block from the White House today to voice frustration over the government shutdown.
But their target wasn’t President Donald Trump. Instead, union leaders trained their fire on someone who’s stayed out of the spotlight: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“It’s not nearly as cold as Mitch ‘the Trump-puppet’ McConnell!” shouted Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, referencing the freezing Washington weather.
Unions leaders sought to re-frame what had been portrayed as a debate between Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Instead, they sought to give McConnell his share of the blame. In speeches in front of the AFL-CIO headquarters, they mostly avoided reciting Trump’s name and instead mentioned McConnell as frequently as possible.
“There are two people who can who can stop it right now,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “One lives down the block from us, and the other is Mitch McConnell.”
Angry federal workers, many on track to miss their first paychecks this week, toted signs and shouted chants condemning Republicans. A union officer for the U.S. Forest Service carried a sign featuring Smokey the Bear that read: “Only you can prevent forest fires — seriously, I’ve been furloughed,” while a 40-year veteran of an IRS outpost in Baltimore grumbled that nearly his entire office had been sent home.
“Whole towns are suffering in rural areas” as a result of lost pay, said Chris Berry, the Forest Service union officer.