By Edwin S. Hopson
In a press release issued today, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents many federal workers, announced that it had filed a lawsuit in federal court on March 30, 2011, against the Obama Administration seeking information regarding the federal government’s plans for a shutdown. The union on March 2, 2011, had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of Management and Budget for those details but the government did not respond. Specifically, AFGE seeks all federal government department and agency contingency plans in the event of a shutdown.
AFGE President John Gage in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, stated:
“The specter of a person being compelled to work without pay, under threat of legal sanctions, should have ended in this country over a century and a half ago. And yet, the federal government is poised to demand that tens of thousands of federal workers report for duty without compensation or be fired for not showing up. If there is a government shutdown, that is what will happen to ‘essential’ employees, although the government still refuses to provide any details.”
A shutdown will occur if the Congress fails to pass legislation to fund government operations after April 8, 2011. In that event, AFGE President Gage is nevertheless urging his members to report to work.
The Office of Personnel Management has posted guidance to agencies which states, in part:
“Federal agencies do not have the authority to pay their employees during a shutdown, regardless of whether the employees are working as ‘excepted’ or furloughed as ‘non-excepted.’ ‘Excepted’ employees will receive pay for hours worked when the Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution. Congress will also determine whether ‘non-excepted’ employees will receive pay for the furlough period.”
AFGE President Gage, according to a report published on Politico’s website, threatens to sue the federal government if federal workers are forced to work without pay during a shutdown. Also according to a report in Politico, the White House has stated that some 800,000 federal employees would be furloughed in the event of a shutdown.