Federal employees return to work knowing they’re still Trump’s ‘bargaining chip’

Thirty-five days is a long time for people to be off the job. It’s long enough that workers getting caught up on everything missed during the 35-day government shutdown are worried they won’t get through it all in the next three weeks, when the Russian asset in the White House might do it to them again.

Yes, along with not knowing exactly when they’re going to get their back pay, furloughed workers are returning to the possibility that they’ll be out again in three weeks. One federal agency, the Department of Agriculture, is keeping the shutdown-related material it created on the employee information website “up for a period of time, should you need to refer back to it.” That goes along with information employees are getting at all the agencies about how to apply for back pay and how to get back into work systems in case you’ve forgotten your password.

Brock Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sent out an agency-wide email Monday telling employees that “there is no higher priority than to guarantee, for those who missed paychecks, that you get paid as quickly as possible.” But also, be patient getting back to work, because more than a month away causes process problems: “Please allow time for updates and reboots to computers, addressing expired passwords, syncing mobile devices, managing benefits and organizing your work space. Supervisors have been provided checklists that should be helpful. Again, please also take the time to listen and support each other.”

But also, hurry up and get as much done as you can in the next three weeks, just in case. For example, FEMA safety officer Steve Reaves says they’re “trying to get as much work as they can get done before flood season, tornado season and hurricane season. […] With us, it’s do as much we can before they try to do this again.” Ryan Baugh, a Department of Homeland Security statistician and a steward for the American Federation of Government Employees, is much more blunt. “We’ll work hard for three weeks, and then we’ll see what happens,” he said. “You could still use the word ‘hostage.’ We’re still the bargaining chip here.”


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