The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 5, 2013

Some federal employees have to work, with no pay in sight

Congressional leaders send letters urging pay for the military

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

— As the government shutdown continues, one local leader is expressing his concerns about the impact on federal employees.  

Charlie Yates, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) at the Federal Correctional Institution-McDowell, said federal employees don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table without a paycheck.

“We’re not receiving salaries, so our employees are starting to get nervous. They don’t know how they’re going to pay their monthly obligations.”

Yates has received dozens of phone calls from anxious employees over the past few days, asking how can they fill their gas tank to get to work if they aren’t receiving a paycheck.

He said with the sequestration, federal employees were going to see a gradual impact, as they were going to be mandated to take 12 to 14 unpaid furlough days throughout the remainder of the fiscal year.

But with the government shutdown, the impact is immediate and no money is coming to the employees whatsoever at this time.

Also with sequestration, Federal Bureau of Prisons employees did not have to report to work, but with the shutdown, federal law enforcement officers and correctional officers are mandated to report for duty.

“We’re mandated to go to work, but they’re not paying us to show up.”

He said there are 308 employees at FCI-McDowell, 3,100 local federal employees and a total of 10,500 federal employees in the 3rd Congressional District that are going without pay.

The IRS, National Park Service, USDA and MSHA employees are working on a skeleton plan, with essential employees only, but even the ones who are working aren’t getting paid.

“That’s a huge impact on our local economy.”

Yates said the shutdown may end as we get closer to the debt ceiling.

“I’d like to see it be over today, but I just don’t see a resolution just because of the bickering between Congress.”

He said Congress needs to come together and “either pass some type of continuing resolution or a clean budget that appropriately funds all federal employees, but more specifically the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”

“I don’t think they should ever use government employees as pawns in political games. We still have a job to do. We still have to go as government employees and perform our jobs to meet our nation’s needs. We take pride in our jobs. We’re going to go to work, stand beside one another and do what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Yates was working at FCI-Beckley in 1995 during the last government shutdown, but he said at the time, it was a brand new institution and still operating under “activation funds.”

“Some staff were affected, but nowhere near what it’s like today. Everybody is affected today.”

He said during the last shutdown, the government did retroactively pay the employees, and he is being told they will be retroactively paid this time.

“But if this goes on for any amount of time, staff won’t be able to meet their monthly obligations.”

Yates is urging citizens to contact local government officials to get pay for these federal law enforcement officers.

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Sen. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, and 48 other bipartisan senators, along with Congressman Nick Rahall, all D-W.Va., sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter Friday to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging that the National Guard and Reserves, and the civilians who support our troops, receive pay during the government shutdown.

Even though the “Pay Our Military Act” was quickly signed into law before the government shutdown to make sure all military personnel receive pay, there have been reports that many service members and civilians, especially in the National Guard and Reserves, have been furloughed without compensation, according to a release from Manchin.

“Before our government shut down, Washington unanimously agreed to make sure paychecks go out to our service members and those who dedicate their lives to protect us each and every day,” Manchin said.

“It is simply not fair and not right that the National Guard and Reserves and other civilians who also work on our national security have been furloughed and are forced to stay at home without receiving their paychecks. I am encouraged that so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have swiftly come together to make this wrong a right. I thank the many West Virginia Guardsman and women, and their families, who contacted me about this issue: your voice matters.”

Rahall agreed in a separate letter with 85 House Republicans and Democrats to the Secretary of Defense: “Congress took action before the shutdown began to ensure that the men and women of our armed forces, including the Reserves and National Guard, would continue to be paid, and I am pressing the Department of Defense to adhere closely to that policy.”  

Rahall said there are many other West Virginians whose pay will be disrupted by this shutdown, as well as many who will be denied access to essential government services.

“The House needs to focus on the harm it is doing to families and businesses and pass legislation quickly to reopen the government and cease this ridiculous political standoff.”

The letter requested that the Department of Defense resolve any discrepancies immediately to make sure that those who serve this country, and their families, receive their paychecks.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com