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Unions feeling brunt of government shutdown

Stephon Johnson | 10/17/2013, 1:49 p.m.

Falling behind on rent, credit card payments and car payments, government employees who were furloughed due to the recent ideological battle in Congress are struggling.

Earlier this week, Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York joined furloughed federal employees and union leaders to call for an end to the shutdown.

“We need to end it, I hope, tonight or tomorrow morning. The idea of violating our debt ceiling is so disturbing,” Maloney said. “A small group of conservatives are holding up the whole government, and they are making it clear that they will not move unless their ransom is paid.”

As a result of being furloughed, workers have been forced to stop filling out prescriptions and making mortgage payments. A furloughed union member even told WCBS radio that they went to a food pantry for the first time in their lives this weekend.

In New York City alone, 50,000 federal workers have been furloughed. Others have been forced to work without pay.

The nation’s largest teachers union has made a six-figure TV and online ad buy blaming “tea party Republicans” for the federal government shutdown that has lasted nearly two weeks. With the government nearing a debt ceiling collapse and working overtime to end the government shutdown, unions have pointed their collective finger at the GOP as the culprit in this mess.

The National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the country, premiered ads that will run in Washington and four states. The ads single out Reps. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Tom Latham of Iowa and Chris Collins of New York. In the series of ads, titled “Not a Game,” the NEA accuses House Republicans of playing a political “game,” which has led to cuts in education and tens of thousands of students not being able to attend Head Start preschool classes.

Another advocacy group, Americans United for Change, announced a six-figure purchase of ad space targeting 10 Republicans as well. According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, voters blame Republicans for the shutdown more than Democrats by a 20-point margin.

American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox sent a letter to Obama urging him to declare a federal state of emergency for the shutdown so workers can collect zero interest loans from FEMA and force businesses to extend their lines of credit to employees.

“Mr. President, we ask that you … call upon the financial and business community to provide arrangements [for people to] skip mortgage payments, skip rent payments, skip car loan payments, skip education and other loan payments until this is all over,” the letter read.