Some 800,000 Americans who work for the federal government are closing in on a month of going without pay. And that is not good news for this country. As it stands, the U.S. government currently owes federal workers some $5 billion in back wages.
The effect of the federal furlough reaches far beyond these government workers, however. There are hundreds of thousands of federal contractors – many of whom are low-wage workers in the service sector – who aren’t getting paid and won’t be reimbursed for lost wages.
The economic loss due to the shutdown has been tremendous, and it is getting worse. While the impacts on the nation level are being felt, it is also hurting neighborhood carry outs and other shops that are losing business now that these workers aren’t around. Given the current stalemate between Congress and the White House, that won’t improve anytime soon.
Thousands of out-of-work feds and their allies gathered in downtown Washington and around the country late last week to demand action that would put these hardworking Americans back to work and allow them to again receive desperately needed paychecks so they can support their families and keep a roof over their head.
The Teamsters joined with other unions at the rally in Washington to demand that elected officials make sure these workers return to work soon. And it may only be the start of federal workers flexing their muscles to demand change. Remember, more than half of the federal workers not being paid now are being forced to work. Last Friday, they brought home paychecks that showed they earned zero dollars. How long are they supposed to put up with such treatment?
Involuntarily mandating more than a million public and private sector workers to forgo pay for almost a month is not good policy. That should be clear no matter ones’ political affiliation. As it stands, the House approved a spending bill earlier this month that would have opened up the government, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring it to a vote. The reason is because he is following the administration’s will.
It’s time for elected leaders to get off the sidelines and back to negotiating an agreement that will return workers to their jobs with pay. They deserve it, their families deserve it, and the American public deserves to have a functioning government that provides the services their tax dollars are supposed to cover.
Respect and dignity are in short supply in the nation’s capital. It’s time for change.