Taxpayers, Federal Employees Deserve Better than a Government Shutdown

Press Release December 5, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Shutting down the federal government this weekend would be an affront to all Americans who deserve a government that stays open and serves their needs, National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon said.

Funding for government operations expires at midnight Friday, Dec. 8, unless Congress and the president reach an agreement before then.

NTEU encourages lawmakers to set aside their policy differences long enough to accomplish their most basic and important responsibility: keeping the government open and tending to the needs of the American public.

“There are no winners when the government stops functioning,” Reardon said. “Taxpayers lose important services, federal employees lose income, the economy suffers and everyone loses faith in our institutions.”

Among the NTEU-represented agencies that would be forced to stop normal business operations are the National Park Service closing parks and monuments to tourists; the Internal Revenue Service being unable to verify government income for banks trying to lend money to people and small businesses; the Food and Drug Administration delaying approvals of new medical products, devices, and drugs; the Environmental Protection Agency halting inspections at hazardous waste facilities, chemical facilities, and drinking water systems; and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission halting non-emergency reactor licensing and emergency preparedness exercises. These are just some of the examples of government services lost during the 16-day shutdown in 2013.

The current proposal for a two-week extension is not ideal because short-term continuing resolutions force agencies to constantly prepare for the possibility of a shutdown and hamstring their ability to do any longer-term budgeting or planning.

“If a short-term extension is approved, we hope Congress uses the extra time to enact spending bills that provide agencies with an adequate level of funding for the remainder of the fiscal year,” Reardon said.

Federal employees are nonpartisan, middle-class professionals who believe in public service and they should not suffer because of others’ failure to govern, Reardon said.

Frontline government workers across the country do not get paid during a shutdown. And in cases where certain employees are excepted from the shutdown – like those in public safety, national security and law enforcement -- their previously approved leave is revoked and they are forced to work.

“With the December holidays approaching, federal employees are threatened with loss of pay and cancelled vacations,” Reardon said. “This type of brinksmanship over government funding has become a chronic problem in Washington and it needs to stop.”

During the shutdown in 2013 when federal employees went two weeks without pay, NTEU surveyed its membership and found 84 percent had cut back on necessities and 72 percent went further into debt. At the peak of the shutdown, 850,000 federal employees were forced into unpaid work furloughs.

NTEU strongly urges Congress to approve the Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2017 (S. 861), which would make sure that federal workers who are furloughed or forced to work without pay during the shutdown are compensated fully and quickly when the government re-opens, regardless of the next regularly scheduled pay date. It would also allow those who are required to work during a shutdown to take scheduled annual leave and sick leave while the government remains closed.

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 31 federal agencies and departments.