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Union members protest shutdown near Salisbury VA hospital

SALISBURY — John Love chanted from the roadside that all he and the other dozen or so union members were asking is that the partial government shutdown end now.

Love, a member of the American Federation of Government Employees, rallied Thursday across the street from the W.G. “Bill” Hefner VA Medical Center, which is not financially affected by the shutdown because of advanced appropriations. The federal government entered the shutdown in late December after the Senate failed to pass a spending bill that included funding for a southern border wall advocated by President Donald Trump.

Many federal programs and departments have reduced operations or closed, and many employees have been furloughed.

The rally was held to highlight the effects the shutdown is having on union members, their families and the nation, organizers said.

Some of the agencies affected include the departments of Homeland Security, Treasury and Transportation.

Motorists honked in a sign of solidarity as union members held signs that read, “End the shutdown now” and “Paid taxes in April, can’t afford ransom in October.”

The son of a friend of Love’s has been affected by the shutdown. He said the woman’s son works for the Department of Homeland Security, and now the mother is paying his bills to keep him afloat.

“It makes everything tight,” he said.

Love said, because of the shutdown, people who depend on such services as Meals on Wheels, which does receive some government funding, may be affected.

“I’m an American soldier, a combat veteran who served my country on the front lines, and I’m serving within,” Love said.

He shared a story about how chickens on a farm provide eggs and cows give up their milk, but only the pig pays the ultimate price of giving up his life.

“We need more pigs in this country to give up a little hide,” Love said.

He and the others could be heard chanting “What do we want? End the Shutdown. When do we want it? Now. Who are we? AFGE.”

Essie Hogue, president of local Chapter 1738 of the union, said even though VA Medical Center workers aren’t affected because the veterans hospital has a two-year budget, the union members wanted to rally across from its campus. She said the union intends to rally in a different location until the shutdown is lifted.

“We want the government to stop acting like children. The president is using us as pawns, and these children will go hungry,” Hogue said.

She said she doesn’t believe Trump cares about people who are less fortunate than he is and that this is hurting them.

“I’m here to show support for my brothers and sisters who are affected,” said Steven Graves.

The partial government shutdown is affecting some 800,000 federal employees nationwide who may not see a paycheck today.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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