Federal workers back to work relieved, nervous and angry Many say they were used as pawns in budget battle

November 21, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Relieved to be back at work after a six-day furlough, nearly 800,000 federal workers streamed into offices and agencies and parks yesterday amid complaints that they had been used as pawns in a highly politicized budget debate.

Outside offices in Washington, some people directed their irritation at President Clinton and Congress.

"We were used and abused," said James Turk, a lawyer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Colleen Daly, who works for the Department of Health and Human Services, said she felt "kind of jerked around."

"We're an easy target," Mrs. Daly said. "Having to listen to the radio to find out whether you have a job or not is a little disconcerting."

All over town, federal employees were once again answering telephones, processing passport applications, investigating consumer complaints, giving tours. Museums, monuments and national parks reopened. Tourists roamed The Mall. Everything appeared to be back to normal.

Outside the Labor Department building, some employees said they were simply pleased to have their jobs back -- with pay for the furloughed days.

"I was getting a little nervous being out so many days," Marsha Hickman of Waldorf said. "It was kind of scary."

Inside the building, a few passers-by stopped in the lobby to watch CNN.

"Someone said it was like being held hostage," John Williams said. "It was sort of that feeling. I never thought it would come to this. I thought it would be avoided because so many other times it has been avoided."

Others said they didn't mind having a week's paid vacation.

"I wasn't nervous, because they said they would pay us for the time off," said Robert Timms.

But with the budget unresolved, others worried that the worst is not yet over.

"We've got 30 days to wait and see if they pass a real budget," Ms. Hickman said.

"I hope they do it before Christmas."

Having survived the longest federal shutdown in history, some employees said they were scarred by the experience and more nervous than ever about politicians' power over their lives.

"It was grim," Mr. Turk said outside the Health and Human Services building. "The fact that they would play such games with people like that."

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