COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia, SC (WLTX) - As the partial government shutdown continues into Friday, a South Carolina federal employee is urging her elected representatives to get to work.
Tangela Graves was one of about a half dozen protesters outside U.S. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s Columbia office on Thursday.
Among the protest signs and car horns, Graves was asking for an end to working without pay.
“I have 14 years in the federal government, I'm trying to weather the storm, but I don't know how long I can do this depending on how long this shutdown goes,” Graves told WLTX.
Graves works at the Williamsburg federal prison as a correctional counselor. The job requires Graves to help inmates with visitation forms, legal fees, and other odd jobs, according to Graves.
She said the weeks of work without pay is having an effect on her coworkers.
“Probably about 7 new hires that just got hired in November. They've probably received one check since they've been hired there and now we're furloughed,” Graves said, adding that she’s afraid they’ll quit.
However, Graves said the employees at Williamsburg are ‘tightknit’ and while morale is falling, they’re still trying to stay positive.
But, the she said the shutdown is hurting her and her fellow employees.
“I think it's really unfair that I dedicate my life to serving the public and helping protect the public from offenders. And this is the treatment that we get, that they're not paying us to show up and do our job, to help keep those offenders off the streets,” she said outside Graham’s office.
Graves is Vice President of the local chapter of the AFGE union, which represents federal workers.
Protesters from the VA and others were able to meet with Senator Graham's staff on Thursday. Some criticized their inability to speak with the Senator directly.
“It seems like we’re always meeting with their aides, and not the Senator. It seems like the politicians seem to think that we are less important to them than what they’re doing in Washington D.C. And that’s not the case, cause we’re their constituents,” Johnny Allen said.
Allen is executive vice president of the Local 1915 at Columbia VA. He is personally unaffected by the shutdown, but said he knows plenty of others whom are.
Graves, who was in the meeting with the aide, said she had a message for all South Carolina's elected federal representatives.
“Get down, get busy, and do your job. We're doing our job without pay. Do your job and you're getting paid. Get this shutdown ended so we can get our money,” Graves added.
Media were not allowed into the discussion between protesters and Graham's aides and were told to reach out to the Senator's other offices for comment.
Graves said she would be okay financially if not paid Friday, but wasn't sure how much longer after that she could stay afloat without putting bills and other charges onto credit cards.
In an email to News 19, Senator Graham's staff said he was working towards a solution and said the Senator still wants Democrats to provide money for border security and a wall.
“It’s South Carolinians that are the ones that brought Lindsey Graham into that office. So, he needs to be listening to what’s going on to South Carolinians, not what’s going on in Washington D.C.,” Allen added.