As if the weather wasn’t cold enough, a group of Coast Guard spouses and members of the Chief Petty Officers Association (CPOA), Coast Guard Enlisted Association, Coast Guard Chief Warrant and Warrant Officers Associations, and Sea Service Foundation gathered at the Capitol to express just how cold it felt to be left behind without a paycheck, while their sister branches of the military received full pay and benefits.
The group met at the steps of the Capitol, and in a message to those who couldn’t be there, Michael Little, the Executive Director of Sea Service Family, Foundation, and Coast Guard Spouse, let everyone know that they were there in order to have their voices heard. Little organized this event over the weekend, and was determined to deliver a package of letters signed by every major Military and Veteran Service Organization, representing more than 7.5 million members.
Once the group took a photo in front of the Capitol, Little told everyone to form up, and they did so, true to form as if it was a military evolution; then quickly departed and rushed straight to work.
While the volunteers were going from door to door and delivering the prepared packages, Little, was attending scheduled meetings with CPOA National President Jon Ostrowski, and retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Reserves, Mark Allen. These leaders attended 13 meetings throughout the day with key leaders of offices who were not expressing support for the Legislation that these groups helped to introduce at the beginning of the 116th Congress, S 21 The Pay Our Coast Guard Act in the Senate, and HR 367 The Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act in the House.
According to Little, these meetings received the typical responses they expected, and were full of lines like “its not fair to the other employees of the government if we pay the Coast Guard first” or “while we feel for the men and women of the Coast Guard, if the other side would just give into the others demands, we could get them paid immediately”. Little said, “it really just felt like lip service to me, nobody wanted to say it, but they really just didn’t care who was suffering through this process, as long as one of them got what they wanted.”
As Little and his 3-man group were finishing its last meeting, they got a call they didn’t expect, asking for a meeting at the last minute with the staff of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. When asked how the meeting went, Little responded, “no different than the rest of the day, go tell the President to open the Government, and the Coast Guard is no different than suffering members of the TSA”.
The group did achieve one major success that has been bearing fruit over the last few days: all the Volunteers who showed up, were able to successfully deliver all 540 packages to the members of both the House and Senate, and since leaving Capitol Hill, many new members have been added each day as cosponsors on their pieces of legislation, which has overwhelming support from both sides. Little says you can tell a lot of the talking points members are using as they take to the floor to support the Coast Guard are coming from those packets.
“We may not have won the leadership over, but we did ensure that the members of the House and Senate were behind us enough, to push on their leaders to help pay the men and women who are protecting them.”