Protesters turn out at VA over government shutdown

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 5, 2013

SALISBURY — More than a dozen protesters lined Brenner Avenue across from the Salisbury VA Hospital on Friday to protest the federal government shutdown.
Rally supporters held signs, criticizing Congress and the impasse that has stalled part of the nation’s workforce as furloughs commence.
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have clashed in budget negotiations as the two sides battle over the president’s health care law.
President Barack Obama has refused GOP calls to delay a major element of the health law enacted in 2010.
Democrats say they will negotiate budget matters with Republicans but they will not alter the health care law that survived a Supreme Court challenge and Obama’s 2012 re-election.
But some local residents are feeling the push as shutdown furloughs near.
Essie Hogue, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, said the VA hospital plans to furlough at least three employees from the facility’s IT department.
Hogue also said the National Cemetery will lose all eight of its full-time employees to furloughs starting on Oct. 15.
“They will be either told to come to work and not be paid or they won’t come to work and I don’t know what they would do with people who need to be buried,” Hogue said. “We’re doing this so that the people know we’re ready to work. Our people are being shut out. They can’t come to work but they’re ready to work. And some are told you’re going to come to work and if you don’t you’ll be fired.”
Rosetta Sloan, a longtime Salisbury resident, called the shutdown a “scary” situation for those who might see an empty paycheck in coming weeks.
Sloan was among those protesting the shutdown Friday morning.
“It’s hitting home,” she said, noting that the protest gives those who are furloughed a voice.
“Everybody doesn’t have the money that Congress has. They really don’t,” Sloan said. “They can do without a couple of paychecks. We have people that live paycheck to paycheck and they need their pay.”
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.