Thursday, April 7, 2011

Government shutdown looks different to workers who toil in Capitol’s basement

By David A. Fahrenthold, Thursday, April 7, 10:40 PM

(Washington Post) - It is a place of discarded desk chairs, lost tourists and workers with their names stitched on their shirts. This is a different U.S. Capitol— two levels below the one they show on C-SPAN — where people chop onions, haul furniture and cut hair.

And here, in the drab basements of Capitol Hill, the threat of a government shutdown looks different: scarier, closer, more mean-spirited. For these workers, what stings is not just the threat of having their wages cut off. It is who’s making the threat: the very legislators that drink the coffee they brew and ride the elevators they operate.

“Do you notice that I’m here?” Matthew Moses, a Maryland resident who moves furniture, wonders when he passes lawmakers in the hall. With tattoos poking out from under his blue work shirt, Moses said he’s worried that his bills would back up during a shutdown.

“I wouldn’t say [I’m] necessarily mad mad” at the members of Congress, he said. “But it’s frustrating, because these things should be handled properly.”

The Capitol employs 2,600 workers to maintain its buildings, trim its trees and operate its mini-subways. More than 75 percent of them would be told not to report during a shutdown, according to the Architect of the Capitol, the agency that manages buildings and grounds.