Shutdown highlights federal workers’ vulnerabilityOn December 8, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
It just doesn’t make any sense. to hold people hostage for you to get what you want. It doesn’t work that way. Federal workers have always been susceptible to changing conditions as political headwinds shift. But historically, government jobs have been considered more stable than private sector jobs. Federal government workers have many more rights than private sector workers, many more due process rights, which gives them a degree of protection that most workers don’t have. But as the country’s longest shutdown drags on, the stability surrounding those jobs is crumbling. The average federal worker has lost 5,000 dollars so far as politicians continue to dig their heels in. And many are struggling to make ends meet. Traditionally, if you’ve gotten a job with the federal government, you’re set for life, there’s security and it’s an honor to say I work for the federal government. But now, it’s not as honorable as it used to be. In normal times, full-time employees of the federal government enjoy better pay than the private sector at lower education levels and are guaranteed health care and retirement benefits, which can be hard to find elsewhere. But every day that the government is shutdown, those benefits seem further and further away. And in the meantime, 800,000 federal workers are not being paid, and the White House has admitted that the shutdown is having detrimental effects on the economy. 78% of US workers live paycheck-to-paycheck. So losing just one paycheck can have devastating consequences. It’s embarrassing that you have a career, and you went to college and you work hard and now you have to go to food banks. All of us are vulnerable. The Transportation Security Administration, better known as TSA, is one of the hardest hit by the shutdown. The average salary for employees of the agency is one of the lowest in the federal government. As many as 10% of TSA workers are calling out sick, causing delays at airports and possible security risks. TSA employees are considered “excepted employees” so they will receive back pay when the government reopens. That is not the case for many of the employees of 10,000 companies that hold contracts with federal agencies. For government contractors, we can advise them on their rights to seek extra work, apply for unemployment benefits, those sorts of things, but there’s not a tremendous amount they can do. And thanks to a 1947 law, it’s illegal for federal employees to strike, further emphasizing how powerless they are. At the time that Act was passed, it was seen as a protection for the government, so the workers wouldn’t cripple the government by striking. I don’t think they anticipated this kind of scenario where the government is the one affirmatively shutting down and forcing these folks to work without pay and not allowing them to strike. So it really has sort of hamstrung them. With limited options, workers who are caught up in the shutdown are forced to wait, hoping that politicians in DC can find a compromise. Being a federal employee is a non-political position and now we’ve been dragged into the politics of this and that’s really uncomfortable. because we just want to do good work. That’s it.