AFGE Mobilizes Against Federal Government Shutdown, Again

WASHINGTON—Here we go again.  With the federal government facing yet another politically inspired shutdown at midnight on Sept. 30, the American Federation of Government Employees has had to mobilize against it yet again.

And this time there’s an added threat, according to a recent news story: When the federal workers finally get called back to their jobs they might – unlike in prior shutdowns that also weren’t their fault – not get paid for time they missed.

The federal government employs 2.15 million workers nationwide, with the Postal Service employing another 590,000.  Almost all the feds would be declared “non-essential” and sent home if the government closes.

And it could: Congress has approved none of the money bills needed to keep the government and its services going in the new fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.  Its temporary money bill to fund federal agencies and programs, called a “continuing resolution,” is hung up by Tea Party insistence that lawmakers drop all money for implementing the Affordable Care Act, which the GOP insultingly calls “Obamacare.”

That’s led AFGE, the largest federal workers’ union, to mount a campaign – both in D.C. and, earlier, out in the field during the recent congressional recess – to highlight the impact of the shutdown, and prevent it.  Other unions have blasted the closure, too.

Closure would also idle all 32,000 D.C. workers, many represented by AFGE.  Congress must approve D.C.’s budget, and it hasn’t.  Mayor Vincent Gray (D) promptly declared every D.C. worker “essential,” in an attempt to force the feds to pay them.

But the feds may not do so.  “Obstructionists in Congress are threatening to do the unthinkable: Shut down the federal government as leverage to enact their own agenda,” AFGE says in its “Shutdown Central” section of its website.

“A shutdown would be disastrous for America’s economic recovery, middle-class, and the livelihoods of our AFGE brothers and sisters, who are already hurting from the sequester, pay freeze, and furloughs.  We need to demand that Congress ‘Stop the shutdown and stop the sequester.’”  The sequester is Washingtonese for the GOP-mandated budget and spending cuts that began this past April.

“On top of the sequester there is now what we call a “Political Shutdown” of our government,” the union said in talking points sent to its members.  “The American people aren’t shutting down the government.  Government employees aren’t shutting down the government, because we want to work.  And the folks who need the services we provide don’t want a government shutdown.

“But some politicians in Washington want a shutdown so they can make a political point.  It’s immoral.  And it makes a mockery of democracy and everything this country stands for.  I/we urge you to do everything possible to end this madness.”

Individual AFGE unions and workers have been speaking out, too.

“Working families will be the collateral damage of this government shutdown battle,” said Gabrielle Martin, president of the union’s National Council of EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) Locals.

“A government shutdown means no EEOC to enforce the Civil Rights Act and the other laws barring workplace discrimination.  EEOC’s approximately 2,100 workers will be forced off the job without pay during a government shutdown.  These same employees have already lost a week’s income in the past six months due to sequestration furloughs.  Federal employees also are in the third year of a pay freeze.”

Civilian defense workers in Colorado Springs, Colo. – home to the U.S. Air Force Academy – confronted their Right Wing lawmaker, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., about the shutdown.  There are around 12,000 civilian defense workers in Colorado.

“We’re hoping Congress is going to come up to their senses and realize this standoff is going to have an impact in the Defense Department that will take decades to fix,” AFGE local leader Albert Rivera told the Colorado Springs Gazette after Lamborn’s local town hall meeting in August on the shutdown.  Lamborn’s solution to avoiding the shutdown was to “cut entitlements,” the paper added.