That was the chant of the day from more than 1,500 state workers, who gathered on the Capitol steps during their lunch breaks today to protest the fact that they are being asked to work without pay during the state's budget impasse.
The workers, who were bused in from all corners of the state, shouted slogans, hoisted signs and donned orange arm bands, hoping that Gov. Rendell and lawmakers inside the building would hear their pleas to pass a budget so that they can resume getting paid.
"Twenty-eight days without a budget is a crime," shouted David R. Fillman, executive director of Council 13 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, whipping up the crowd. "It's unethical and it's inexcusable."
Because of the impasse, the state is operating under a diminished capacity to spend money - and that includes paying roughly 77,000 of its employees.
All the 77,000 workers have received partial paychecks this month. And of those, about 33,000 employees face their first so-called "payless payday" this Friday - and 44,000 workers won't receive a check on Aug. 7.
In addition, about 1,000 employees who work for the state court system already have missed a paycheck, and stand to miss a second payment this Friday. Also, 1,000 elected judges, from magisterial judges to Supreme Court justices, would miss their first paycheck this Friday.
Once a budget is enacted, all of those employees will receive back pay.
But in the meantime, they say, they're hurting to pay bills, buy groceries and even gas up their cars to drive to work.
Rendell said yesterday that he would decide by midweek on whether to push for a stopgap budget that would permit the state to pay its employees, as well as its vendors. But Rendell did not give any detail about how large such a budget would be or how long it would last.
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