Dispatch from the End the Shutdown Rally, January 17, 2019

VP of Collections Matt Curewitz made the most of the shutdown by organizing the End the Shutdown Rally at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. He was kind enough to share his thoughts with Harbor Views this month:

“During the government shutdown, I had an increasingly busy life. Some people thought that during the shutdown, government employees would be enjoying their Snuggies and day- drinking. That wasn’t my experience – I was too busy fighting against the shutdown.

Inspired by the rally NTEU National held in Washington DC and hoping to keep our message high-profile, I organized our own “End the Shutdown” rally in front of the Massachusetts State House. After a lot of work with other local chapters and NTEU National, we scheduled the rally for January 17th.

The day of the rally the forecast was for a sunny day, with no wind… and a high of 24 degrees. (At that point, I really wished I did own a Snuggie). You can imagine my relief when between 100 to 200 people, union and non-union, braved the cold to gather in front of the State House and demand an end to the shutdown. Speakers included our chapter’s own Linda Candela, who relayed the pain our members were experiencing from the lack of pay; Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg; leaders from other chapters and unions; and elected officials. Not only did local media cover the event but our rally was featured on national news programs! It was around this time that people really started to realize how much the government shutdown was hurting employees.

The rally was just one front in the battle against the shutdown. I spent a lot of time reaching out and speaking with our elected representatives. Like them or hate them, our congressional representatives hold our future in their hands so it’s important that we to talk to them and try to keep them on our side. This allowed me to get some inside information that I relayed to our members over the chapter Facebook page (NTEU Chapter 23). I was also surprised to see my words and ideas discussed by Members of Congress over national media, which was gratifying. (Maybe I can now sue them for plagiarizing me. Who needs back pay when you can get a nice, fat settlement?)

This wasn’t the end of my outreach to elected officials. Seeking to end the shutdown every way I could, I spearheaded a letter writing effort. I reached out to Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker’s office, as well as to state senators and representatives to see if the Commonwealth of Massachusetts could provide short term jobs for furloughed employees.

I published as much information as I could on the chapter’s Facebook page, ranging from local business offers for furloughed employees, to breaking news, to updates on the chapter’s activities. For example, after getting a good contact at the MA Dept of Unemployment Assistance, I created a post explaining how unemployment income affects furloughed employees, retroactive pay, etc. If you are on Facebook, please like NTEU Chapter 23. If you are not on Facebook, create an account – but you only need to follow our page. Who needs pictures of your cousin’s baby when you’ve got OPM guidelines to read!

Lastly, I spoke with many of you, answering questions when I knew the answers. Since the extent of the shutdown was unprecedented, I often didn’t know the answer immediately but researched it. I spoke with NTEU national, local office holders, and government agencies. Some answers I got, while others are still being worked on. Always feel free to reach out to me. I may not be an omniscient being – that would be unbearable to be around at parties – but I can see what I can find out for you.

In the end, I probably worked more during the shutdown than I do during regular work weeks! While I may regret being too busy to enjoy day drinking, I don’t regret the connections I made with other chapters, elected officials, and our members.

We might be furloughed again soon. If so, I hope you’ll help us fight to get our paychecks and stop us from being used as pawns. I don’t want to go another 5 weeks without pay and I sure as hell will do all I can to stop that it from happening again. Thanks to all of you who spoke up, came to the rally, reached out to your elected representatives, and shared your #shutdownstories on social media. All these individual efforts combined to make the shutdown’s continuation impossible. You are awesome.”

Signed, a slightly tired Matt Curewitz NTEU Chapter 23/Vice President of Collections, Taxpayer Service and Insolvency

We weren’t the only ones who appreciated Matt’s efforts. National President Tony Reardon also noticed his hard work!

Dear Matt, I cannot thank you enough for all the work you did during the shutdown.  You were instrumental in helping set up the Boston Shutdown Rally.  Your work with other legislative coordinators and members helped keep NTEU in the media and served to strengthen their resolve.  Without the dedicated work of chapter officers like you, we would not have been successful in getting out the story of federal workers.  Thank you very much for your service to NTEU and our members at a particularly difficult time for all federal employees.  Sincerely, Tony Reardon