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Some federal employees in Michigan face snow, wind to protest sequestration

A number of federal employees took part in protests in six Michigan cities Wednesday afternoon. The events were part of a national campaign opposing sequestration, the automatic spending cuts to the federal budget that are already taking effect.

Kyle Austin has been working at the social security administration in Grand Rapids for 35 years. He admits, not everyone knows or necessarily seems to care about sequestration.

“It worries me because we’re the front line people. We see these people. Congress doesn’t,” Austin said.

Lately, Austin says people have been upset the social security office is open fewer hours and that claims are taking longer to process.

“It can sometimes take a few minutes for people to try to settle in and understand that ‘hey we’re not the bad guys here. We’re the ones who want to help you,” Austin said.

Some supporters honked as they drove by Austin and about a dozen others holding signs that read “repeal sequestration.” Heavy snow stuck to their scarves and hats.

Rosendo Rocha Jr is president of the local American Federation of Government Employees, a union that represents people who work at social security offices outside Detroit. He works at the office in Holland.

“We’re out here in this beautiful spring Michigan weather – almost white out conditions. We’re trying to bring the message home that ‘hey it’s that important that we’re out here. And it’s important that people know that you have to fight back,” Rocha said, “Call their congressman. Call their senator. Call the president and say ‘hey, repeal sequestration.”

Rocha worries people won’t know the effects of sequestration until it’s too late. He says it’s not just social security offices; he’s worried about other federal offices too.

Other protests were held in Bay City, Saginaw, Detroit, Battle Creek, and Warren.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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