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Furloughed U.S. workers will guide bewildered tourists

Oct. 2, 2013 at 10:06 AM ET

Tourists from France sit outside the closed Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Tourists from France sit on the steps outside the closed Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington October 1, 2013. The couple did not realize that the the U.S. government began a partial shutdown on Tuesday for the first time in 17 years resulting in the closure of all national museums.

WASHINGTON - Some federal workers furloughed by the U.S. government shutdown plan to put their free time to use, stationing themselves at shuttered museums and monuments on Wednesday morning to direct tourists to open attractions.

The stand-in tour guides, who will provide their services gratis, plan to gather outside the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and hand out leaflets saying whether major tourist spots are open or closed.

The U.S. Capitol? Closed. The Corcoran Gallery of Art? Open.

"I remembered from the government shutdown in the mid 1990s that there were a lot of tourists who didn't get the message that the Smithsonian museums were closed. They'd planned a trip around it, then they get there and the doors were closed," said Carl Goldman, director of a local affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

To make sure that did not happen again, AFSCME Council 26, which represents employees at the Justice Department, Federal Aviation Administration, Library of Congress and other agencies, joined with the American Federation of Government Employees Local 12, which primarily represents Labor Department workers.

"We thought maybe we could put something out that would help them and help us," Goldman said.

With the help of AFSCME national and the AFL-CIO's Washington D.C. Metro Council, the unions created the "Federal Worker's Guide to Shutdown D.C.," which gives the status of major points of interest.

The furloughed workers will be in green and blue union t-shirts on the Constitution Avenue side of the Natural History Museum from 10 a.m. until noon on Wednesday. If the shutdown is long and the effort is successful, they may add volunteers at other museums.

Furloughed workers will be carrying signs.

"My favorite slogan is: 'I would rather be working for you,'" Goldman said.

The labor groups say it's an opportunity to have a conversation with Americans visiting the nation's capitol and overseas visitors.

"It will give us the chance to let them see that federal workers are just like any other person. They're trying to do a good job and take care of their family," Goldman said

Copyright 2014 Thomson Reuters.

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