Second Union for Federal Employees Sues Trump Administration Over Shutdown

Published on January 9, 2019 by Athena Pallas

“Federal employees should not have to pay the personal price for all of this dysfunction,” said the president of the second federal employee union to sue the Trump administration over the government shutdown, according to The Hill. The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) represents 150,000 federal employees at 33 different agencies. NTEU president Tony Reardon also called the shutdown a “travesty”.

Much like the lawsuit filed last week by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) on New Year’s Eve, this suit contends that making employees continue to work without pay is illegal. A total of 420,000 government employees are in that spot, because they are deemed too essential to be furloughed during the shutdown, while another 380,000 have been furloughed, so have neither work nor pay. Amid the shutdown, there are reports that there has been a rise in TSA agents calling in sick and quitting as a result of the lack of pay, which of course causes concern for a potential security problem at the nation’s airports. According to The Hill:

A second federal employees’ union has filed suit against the Trump administration over the government shutdown, which is now in its third week. The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents 150,000 members at 33 federal agencies, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging that hundreds of thousands of workers are being illegally forced to work without pay, according to The Washington Post.…NTEU president Tony Reardon called the shutdown a “travesty,” according to the Post. “Federal employees should not have to pay the personal price for all of this dysfunction,” he said…As the shutdown continues, federal employees in a number of agencies have expressed concerns about dealing with financial hardships while missing paychecks. A union president for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers said Wednesday that some TSA agents are quitting or threatening to quit their jobs due to the shutdown, a situation that could “create a massive security risk for American travelers.”

AFGE, the first union to file such a suit, represents some  700,000 federal workers. AFGE’s president President Jeffrey David Cox Sr., the week before the lawsuit was filed, also came out vehemently denying President Trump’s claim that “many” federal workers so support his border wall that they have urged him to keep the government shut down as long as is necessary for him to get the funding he wants, even if it means they do not get a paycheck. In a statement issued by AFGE, according to The Hill, Cox Sr. said that there “should be no confusion”, that “They are eager to get back to work…They unequivocally oppose using shutdowns as a means of resolving policy disputes. This is not about a wall, this is about 800,000 real people with real families and real bills to pay.” Other unions for federal employees echoed that sentiment. Paul Shearon, the president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents some 80,000 federal workers, according to The Hill, called Trump’s claim “false” and said “We have not heard from a single member who supports the President’s inaction. Most view this as an act of ineptitude.

Another Trump action that has likely increased his unpopularity among federal workers is that he also used an executive order to freeze their pay for 2019, so they will not get the 2.1% across the board raise they were expecting and the usual localized increases (for areas with higher costs of living) were also stopped by Trump’s executive order. Not paying 800,000 people and stopping across the board raises for the over two million civilian employees of the federal government is not going to endear Trump to many people.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.