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AFGE Seeks to Correct the Record after Member Union Endorses Shutdown

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AFGE National President J. David Cox said: "I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want their paycheck on pay day." AFGE National President J. David Cox said: "I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want their paycheck on pay day." AFGE

The nation’s largest federal employee labor union seemed to push back on statements in support of the partial government shutdown made Thursday by officials from one of its member unions in a press conference with President Trump.

Leaders of the National Border Patrol Council said Thursday a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is an “absolute necessity” for Border Patrol agents, and said they supported Trump’s decision last month to reject a stop-gap funding bill and trigger a partial government shutdown.

“We are all affected by the shutdown,” said council vice president Art del Cueto. “We have skin in the game.”

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The American Federation of Government Employees took time on Friday to push back on the member union’s statements. AFGE has strongly supported every congressional effort to fund the government since last month.

In a statement to Government Executive, AFGE National President J. David Cox dismissed Trump’s press conference as an instance of “divide and conquer tactics.”

“The president’s ‘news conference’ yesterday is no more than a stunt to distract everyone away from the matter at hand: getting the government open,” Cox said. “Federal employees and our members want the federal government open and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want their paycheck on pay day.”

In a call with reporters, the union’s public policy director, Jacque Simon, also sought to pour cold water on the border patrol council’s statements.

“You may have seen the president speak yesterday, and we did as well, and we understand why there might be some confusion,” she said. “As far as AFGE is concerned, our job is to protect the jobs, the rights and the compensation of our members, and nothing trumps that. Our sole duty is to our members, their jobs and their paychecks, period. Regardless of what any individual member thinks of Trump’s agenda, they need their paychecks, and our members in every single agency are terrified of when the day comes with no paycheck, and that day’s coming soon.”

Federal employees are set to miss their first paychecks starting late next week, depending on their agency's exact pay schedule. 

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Erich Wagner is a staff correspondent covering pay, benefits and other federal workforce issues. He joined Government Executive in the spring of 2017 after extensive experience writing about state and local issues in Maryland and Virginia, most recently as editor-in-chief of the Alexandria Times. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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