If Government Employees Are Important Enough to Work During a Government Shutdown, They’re Important Enough to Pay


Demonstrators protest the partial government shutdown during a rally organized by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, outside the Capitol building in Washington, Jan. 10, 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration said it was bringing back some furloughed workers in order to ensure the safety of the air travel system. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Today a federal judge refused to intervene in the government shutdown, citing a desire to keep the judicial branch of government from taking sides in a fight between the legislative and executive branches.

Still, the workers who have sued the federal government have a point. While some of their arguments may be a bit overwrought – invoking the 13th amendment is a bit silly, the workers have a choice to leave their employment if they like – there’s no question they’re being treated unfairly.

Many of them are being asked to provide their skills and labor during the shutdown, and they’re not being compensated for it. That they’ll probably be made whole again once the shutdown is over is hardly justification for this treatment.

Nobody deserve to be put in that situation.

Once Congress gets back to work, they ought to consider a legislative fix. Something which requires that federal workers who show up for work, even when the govenrment shutdown, be compensated for that work.

The furloughs are one thing. While it’s not great to tell a group of workers to stay at home, and go unpaid, for a certain amount of time at least we’re not expecting them to work for free.

There is plenty which is embarrassing about this government shutdown, but the way these workers are being treated is perhaps the worst.

This is beyond politics. This is about basic decency.