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Government workers plan ‘silent march’ at Honolulu airport to protest shutdown

A “silent march” in support of federal employees who aren’t getting paid during the partial government shutdown is planned at Honolulu airport Thursday morning, a union official said.

The sign-waving rally is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Hawaiian Airlines departure level of Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, said Lisa Marie Akau, a national organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees.

Akau said the union represents about 900 Transportation Security Administration officers statewide who are being required to work without pay as essential staff.

“We’re making signs,” said Akau, who’s hoping for a turnout of more than 50 people.

The partial shutdown affecting nine of 15 federal agencies is now in its 26th day. Many furloughed employees missed their first paycheck on Friday and Saturday, and in high-cost Hawaii where many live paycheck to paycheck, effects have been immediate.

“People are stressing about, how are they going to pay for things?” Akau said today. “How are they going to get food on the table, pay for gas, pay the rent — all of this,” she said.

TSA workers who have to work without pay are increasingly calling in sick in Hawaii and around the country, causing delays at airports.

Akau said she was told by a union member that in Kona last week, two lanes of checkpoints that handle 900 passengers were reduced to one due to sick calls.

Some TSA employees who live in Hilo but work in Kona have been forgoing the commute and are sleeping in their cars in Kona to save on gas bills, she said.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said on the Senate floor today, “I have a simple request for my Republican colleagues: Let’s vote to re-open the government. There are too many people suffering for this to go on any longer.”

The Democratic-led House has passed a series of bills to end the shutdown, but without funding for a border wall with Mexico, President Donald Trump has rejected them.

A bipartisan Senate compromise plan to temporarily reopen the government — but with no specific funding for a wall — was met with opposition from the administration.

“There are now 77 major or significant walls built around the world, with 45 countries planning or building walls,” Trump tweeted this morning. “Over 800 miles of walls have been built in Europe since only 2015. They have all been recognized as close to 100 percent successful. Stop the crime at our Southern Border!”

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