Escalating his fight with the Trump administration, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is encouraging Transportation Security Administration employees to sign up for state unemployment benefits while they work without pay during the government shutdown ― an offer that contradicts White House direction.
At an informal meeting with TSA staff at Sacramento International Airport on Thursday, the newly elected governor urged workers to take advantage of the offer he announced last week: Collect unemployment insurance benefits from the California Employment Development Department, regardless of instructions from President Donald Trump’s Labor Department a day earlier that states can’t legally offer the benefits.
Those directions were “jaw-dropping and extraordinary” to read, Newsom told the TSA workers, who are among federal employees required to continue working without pay during the shutdown. Unlike furloughed workers, personnel deemed essential have not been able to rely on unemployment checks to help pay rent and bills, buy groceries and handle other daily expenses.
At the Sacramento airport, that’s about 300 workers. Those gathered around Newsom told stories of how the shutdown has forced them to visit a food bank for the first time in their lives, put “for sale” signs up on their homes and struggle paying for child care.
Newsom said the letter from the U.S. Labor Department, which was sent to leaders from eight states who inquired about helping unpaid federal workers, was “in essence telling us that we can’t do what we’re doing.”
“The good news is we’re going to do it,” Newsom continued. “And shame on them.”
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, Newsom has spent his first days in office positioning himself as an adversary to the Trump administration. He denounced the president’s immigration and environmental policies during his swearing-in ceremony earlier this month. And on his second day in office, he demanded Trump provide better wildfire support for the state’s federal lands.
Trump has called Newsom a “clown” who “wants to give [immigrants] health care, education, everything.”
Newsom told TSA workers on Thursday that his office is still making sure all state employment workers know the new guidance bucking the Trump administration. He also reminded them that when they receive back pay after the shutdown ends, they’re required to repay the state.
Pressure to revise or revolt against the Trump administration’s guidance on the unemployment benefits is also afoot in Connecticut, where three Democrats ― Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro ― wrote a letter Thursday urging Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to “expeditiously” allow states to provide benefits.
The day before, Blumenthal introduced legislation that would amend the law the Labor Department cites in its decision.
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