Washington D.C. – Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has called for federal employees to receive their missed paychecks immediately, even if the shutdown has not ended, an idea strongly endorsed by the National Treasury Employees Union.
His remarks came after the Senator and NTEU National President Tony Reardon on Friday discussed the extreme hardship and suffering being encountered by our nation's federal workforce.
Sen. Warner on Saturday shared heartbreaking stories he's heard from his federal employee constituents who have missed a month's worth of pay with no end in sight and then asked, “The fact is, since we have already agreed to pay them when we re-open, why shouldn't we at least go ahead and even if we are shut down, pay these federal workers come Thursday, so they don't have to incur additional pain and suffering?”
Sen. Warner repeated this sentiment this morning during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press saying the “starting point of this negotiation ought be to reopening the government and if we’re not, at least what we ought to be willing to do, because you think people have been hurt so far, come this Thursday there is going to be a second pay period without a check and then the beginning of the month with all the bills coming due. The fact that we are going to go back and pay our federal employees back pay, let’s at least pay them on Thursday so they don’t have to go through more angst.”
NTEU strongly agrees.
“The desperation level among federal employees is off the charts, and Congress and the administration need to find a way to give them some relief, right now,” Reardon said. “These workers need their paychecks so they can pay their bills, keep their homes, go to the doctor, put food on the table and avoid more debt.”
There is already a law, the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, that says all of the employees who are not paid during the shutdown will receive that back pay in full as soon as the shutdown ends.
“These salaries will be paid, no matter what, so why is there continued delay and needless suffering?” Reardon asked.
The partial government shutdown is nearly one month old and 800,000 federal workers, whether they are furloughed or required to keep working, have not been paid. Instead, they are lining up at food pantries, skipping prescription medicine, filing for unemployment benefits and food stamps and begging banks and landlords for mercy.
“One thing I think we all knew, maybe intellectually and had all seen the statistics, that half of Americans couldn't afford an unexpected $400 bill without going into financial ruin. We're seeing that play out right now. Not because somebody had been mismanaging their funds, but because they expected if they work for the United States of America, and if they were willing to continue to do that work, that they’d get paid,” Sen. Warner said on the floor of the Senate.
“Families around the country are in crisis, and it is not their fault. Congress and the administration must act to alleviate their pain,” Reardon said.
NTEU-represented agencies affected by the lapse in appropriations include: IRS, Customs and Border Protection, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Federal Election Commission, National Park Service, Patent and Trademark Office, Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.