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Federal Employees' Union Sues Trump Administration as 420,000 Work Without Pay During Shutdown

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The government shutdown continues as President Trump prepares to meet with congressional leaders just one day before Democrats take control of the House. President Trump has insisted on including $5 billion for border wall funding before he'll agree to sign any spending measure. Eight hundred thousand government workers' lives have been thrown into disarray by the shutdown, with 380,000 workers on furlough and 420,000 who have worked without pay since December 22.

We speak with a federal workers' union that is suing the Trump administration over the shutdown. The American Federation of Government Employees, or AFGE, says it is illegal for federal workers to work without pay. We speak with Heidi Burakiewicz, lead attorney in the lawsuit, and David Borer, general counsel for AFGE.

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The government shutdown enters its 12th day as President Trump prepares to meet with congressional leaders just a day before Democrats take control of the House. President Trump has insisted on including $5 billion for border wall funding before he'll agree to sign any spending measure.

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Trump tweeted Tuesday, quote, "Border Security and the Wall 'thing' and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let's make a deal?"

Eight hundred thousand government workers' lives have been thrown into disarray by the shutdown, with 380,000 on furlough and 420,000 who have worked without pay since the House and Senate failed to pass an end-of-year spending bill on December 22nd.

This is President Trump speaking to Fox News on New Year's Day.

PETE HEGSETH: So, how far are you willing to go, Mr. President? When do you anticipate talks with Chuck and Nancy, as you say, sir?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I assume when they get back. I'm in Washington. I'm ready, willing and able. I'm in the White House. I'm ready to go. They can come over right now. They could have come over anytime. I spent Christmas in the White House. I spent New Year's Eve now in the White House. And, you know, I'm here. I'm ready to go. It's very important. A lot of people are looking to get their paycheck. And so I'm ready to go anytime they want. No, we are not giving up. We have to have border security. And the wall is a big part of border security -- the biggest part.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This comes as Trump has issued an executive order freezing federal workers' pay, eliminating a 2.1 percent pay raise that was set to kick in in January.

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AMY GOODMAN: Well, we turn now to look at a federal workers' union that's suing the Trump administration over the shutdown. The American Federation of Government Employees, or AFGE, says it's illegal for federal workers to be forced to work without pay.

In Washington, D.C., we're joined by two guests. David Borer is general counsel at the American Federation of Government Employees. And Heidi Burakiewicz is the lead attorney in a lawsuit suing the federal government on behalf of members of the AFGE and federal employees being forced to work without pay during the partial government shutdown. She's a partner at the law firm Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! David Borer, let's begin with you. I spent a lot of time in airports this weekend, and I talked to a lot of TSA agents. They're all being forced to work without pay. Can you explain how this is legal in any way?

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