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Locked-out union workers rally against government shutdown

Today on Capitol Hill. 

The gloom of the government shutdown and a cold rainy day didn't stop a thousand locked-out federal workers from rallying outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., this morning.

With the shutdown now in its tenth day, the huge crowd of furloughed union workers -- including members of the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union and AFSCME -- gathered to express their outrage and demand that extremist Republicans stop holding the country hostage. Other workers from SEIU, the Teamsters and Good Jobs Nation came out to support their union brothers and sisters.

Rain pounded down on a furloughed aviation inspector who spoke to protesters:

I'm a little damp right now, but that's nothing compared to the way American workers are getting soaked by House Republicans.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, union leaders and dozens of members of Congress also rallied the crowd. Like a similar protest held last week, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) of the Progressive Caucus led the demonstration, joined by Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Nancy Pelosi.

Workers chanted "Let us work," holding umbrellas and signs that said "Stop the lockout" and "Stop holding America hostage."

One AFGE leader set the record straight on what American workers are willing to negotiate on with anti-worker Republicans:

Half of our members are out of work and the other half are being forced to work without a paycheck. And despite what John Boehner and tea party extremists are saying, we are willing to negotiate. We want to negotiate an end to sequestration and a fairer tax system so that the rich and corporations pay their fair share.

We have all kinds of ideas to end the plight of the working class and improve federal government. But we don't shut down the government to make a political point.

As always, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called out the extremists in Congress and put their latest attack on the middle class in context:

This shutdown started with tea party hostage-takers wanting to stop health care reform. But let's be clear: destroying health care is just the tip of the iceberg for right-wing extremists. They want to destroy Social Security and Medicare. They want to end regulations on Wall Street. They want to go after the whole social safety net that keeps millions of Americans from falling into extreme poverty. They want an oligarchic society ruled by the rich.

And they say they are willing to negotiate -- it's time to compromise. We have already compromised! The budget we passed is their budget. We don't like it. And still they want to take more from the American people.

Today the shutdown hit 3,600 employees at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- the people who make sure a Fukushima-like nuclear disaster doesn't happen in America. Meanwhile the clock is ticking on the deadline to increase the debt ceiling.

The shutdown has hurt hundreds of thousands of workers, families and small businesses, but millions more will face a deep economic crisis if Congress drives the government to default.

Some locked-out government workers said they will return to the Capitol tomorrow -- rain or shine -- to keep the pressure on politicians and stop Republicans' war on working families.

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