As the partial government shutdown that has put some 800,000 employees in non-pay status drags on into its third week, the mood in the government appears to be turning increasingly sour.
As commonly happens in extended shutdowns, many affected employees are complaining about a lack of information from their own agencies and from OPM–which is one of the agencies whose funding has lapsed and which hasn’t released any updated information since the shutdown’s early days.
Relations between agencies and labor unions, already tense, also are showing increasing signs of strain. The AFGE and NTEU unions have filed separate suits claiming that the government is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying in a timely way the overtime that some affected employees are working. A similar suit related to the last extended partial shutdown, in 2013, resulted in a court judgment in their favor, although the damage award amounted to only a small amount per employee and still hasn’t been paid while an appeal is pending.
Both unions are citing the stress on individual employees that is showing up in ways including reported sick-out among TSA inspectors at several airports. The new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., has asked the agency to explain what is happening and to answer questions about the impact on safety. The AFGE union meanwhile has pointed to a growing attrition rate and a resulting growth in the number of vacancies in those positions.
That union’s national office meanwhile found itself opposing its own Border Patrol council on the key issue behind the shutdown after officials appeared with President Trump at the White House to endorse the administration’s requested funding for a southern border wall.
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