MINNEAPOLIS — Thousands of federal workers in Minnesota missed their paycheck Friday due to the government shutdown that has run 21 days and counting.
Dennis Fuller-Rueschman, a TSA officer at MSP Airport, say he has already convinced the bank to delay his due date on his car payments by two months. He expects to get back pay once the shutdown ends, but for the near future he'll rack up credit card debit and anxiety.
"It’s hard. It’s really gotten to be where I don’t know if I’m going to stick around, because I need to work, and I need to make money," Fuller-Rueschman told KARE.
As an essential employee performing a critical passenger screening function, Fuller-Rueschman's been ordered to keep working through the stalemate. And, while those security checkpoints may be your least favorite part of your airport experience, he actually enjoys the work. Especially when he's getting paid.
"It's a great job. The people are great to work with, and I'm a people person. I enjoy talking to people," Fuller-Rueschman explained.
He was among the government workers who gathered to watch US Senator Tina Smith address the media at MSP Friday. Sen. Smith, who was flanked by local leaders of the American Federal of Government Employees union.
"We need strong border security, but we should not be using these people, and hundreds of thousands of people like them, as bargaining chips in this fight," Smith told reporters.
Smith shared a letter she received from an air traffic controller who lives in Lakeville, along with photo of his baby son Oliver in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit.
The controller, Joseph Daskalakis, told Smith that Oliver was born 10 weeks early and the only hospital that accepts premies that young is out of network in the family's insurance plan. The federal agency that can help resolve the issue is currently shuttered.
Smith urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up the spending gap bills that have already passed the Senate before with bipartisan support.
Celia Hahn, a TSA officer who heads the AFGE Local 899, said the officers at MSP haven't staged a sickout, but filling those jobs could become more challenging in the current climate.
"TSA officers and some of the lowest paid officers in the federal government, and most of us live paycheck to paycheck," Hahn explained.
"Finding people to come in and do this job while we’re not paying people to do this job is going to be extremely tough."
The who work at federal prisons in Minnesota also missed a payday Friday.
"For Rochester we have 13 or 14 couples where both the husband and the wife work at the prison," Bill Axford, one of the leaders of the AFGE union local for the Rochester Corrections Institution.
"A lot more are single parents, or the single earner in their households."
Mike Weber, the AFGE union leader from the federal prison in Sandstone, said the missed paycheck will be felt by the local business community.
"FCI Sandstone is one of the biggest employers in the area," Weber said.
"The local diner, the daycare facilities, the hardware store -- they're all being affected by us not getting paid."