Beginning this week the partial government shutdown that began December 22 gets real, affecting 800,000 employees and their families, about 40 percent of the full time federal workforce. For many of the workers, checks that would normally arrive or be electronically deposited the middle of this week or next week will be missing in action. The lack of pay will continue until the President and Congress can agree to end the shutdown.
On January 4 we conducted a brief two-hour poll on Twitter, asking federal government employees if they were in favor of the shutdown. We limited it to two hours to minimize the ability of special interest groups to mobilize and flood the poll with partisan answers. It is not a scientific representative sample by any means, and we can’t guarantee that only federal employees participated, but you may find it interesting. Of the 74 votes, 81 percent were not in favor of the partial government shutdown, while 19 percent were for it.
We also asked a few federal employees to tell us in detail how the shutdown was affecting them personally. Below is one of the responses, lightly edited for length and readability. We will post more responses from furloughed employees in the coming days.
A Bureau of Land Management firefighter in the Western United States said sometimes people that don’t know who he works for tell him it’s not a big deal federal employees are not getting paid:
“I try and explain”, he told us, “that even though people work for the federal government it does not mean that they are not like everyone else out there in the US that work paycheck to paycheck. These people have lives, bills, expenses, and medical issues that everyone else has. Is it the public’s perception that because one works for the government that they are paid well, and don’t have the same struggles as everyone else does?
“[The shutdown] is politically motivated. For the president and Congress to hold the country hostage is completely wrong and misguided. I am married, my wife does not work, except to take care of our [children]. I depend on my job to provide for the family. It’s why I went full time after being the typical hotshot employee, where it was just me. I knew then my job was part time and I always had [another job] to get me through until Spring when we would ramp back up with the shots. It’s not like that now — it’s family and long term job stability that I/we want.
“We have savings we are living on now, savings that were meant to go towards the land and house we are buying that now is on hold. Not knowing how long this will last is the hard part. The complete uncertainty of when it will happen again leaves me to question if this is the time to buy anything? I haven’t mentioned it to my wife, but I can’t have uncertainly in my life now, I have people depending on me, something I didn’t have before. Is it fair of me to continue in a job where even during the best of times, I am gone, literally for a minimum of 4 months out of the year? Add this crap shutdown, yes, I am home, but without a paycheck, it leaves very little for a family to be able to do. Sure as hell cant run down for a Disneyland vacation.
“As far as the office, no winter work is getting done, fuel reduction projects are all on hold, no hiring, not being able to start looking at who wants to come to work. [Incident Management] Team nominations are due. Who applied and when will we be able to notify those people that they were accepted onto a team? Will those people still be around, or did they move on because of the shutdown? Team meetings need to be planned. This year all Great Basin teams, type 1, 2, and 3 are meeting in Reno, will that networking happen, or when government reopens will the backlog of missed work take precedence? Training is on hold, with some of the classes completely out of the question of being made up, thereby delaying needed training for employees, and adding to the stress of this job. How much time will we have to get the refresher and pack test done before fire season is once again upon us?
“I also think the tactic that Trump used to deny the 2% pay increase [for 2019] was chickens***. One thing I hear over and over is that retention is related to the amount someone is paid. A GS 3/4 making $12 an hour won’t be coming back without something more in the paycheck. To deny that minimal 2% to the hard working federal employees is nothing but a kick in the ass.”