With the top two Republican members of the federal government holding federal employees’ livelihoods hostage and a Tuesday ruling by a George W. Bush-appointed judge telling them that they can’t stop working for free, one Michigan federal employee has a message for Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “I can’t afford to work for an IOU.”
That message will be delivered in person at 12 PM Friday in a protest by members of the American Federation of Government Employees in front of the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building in Detroit, Michigan.
Approximately 800,000 federal workers are in effect being held hostage by Trump and McConnell. Of them, almost half have been forced to work for free since the partial federal shutdown began on Dec. 22 because Congress refused to fund Donald Trump’s dream of a wall along the southern border. In Michigan, roughly 6,300 workers have been either furloughed or forced to work for free.
The situation is dire enough that worker advocates, including Barbara Ehrenreich, are urging TSA workers in particular to strike. That’s a move that would be in violation of a 1947 federal law passed long before the Republican Party started shutting down the government in retaliation for losing policy arguments.
That law was upheld in federal court on Tuesday by District Court Judge Richard J. Leon, who said that allowing unpaid federal workers to stop working would “put lives at risk,” according to an Associated Press report on the decision. In his ruling, Judge Leon refused to issue either a temporary restraining order forcing the Trump administration to pay the employees or an order allowing them to refuse to work unless they are paid.
On the same day, The Hill reported that Senate Republicans had blocked another House-passed effort to reopen the government and start paying federal employees, and the Trump administration ordered 36,000 furloughed IRS workers to report back to the office without pay.
While that court case and the overall shutdown drag on with no end in sight, federal and non-federal workers across the country alike will continue to suffer.
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