Unions Will Demand Back Pay if Government Shuts Down

If the federal government partially shuts down on Tuesday, federal worker unions are set to protest and demand back pay for government workers. Government unions may even consider lawsuits to get back pay for furloughed federal employees. 

If Congress cannot agree to a short-term resolution to fund the government by Monday, parts of the federal government will shut down on Tuesday. 

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said he believes government employees should get back pay and, since many may be living "paycheck to paycheck," he asserted, “We as a Congress need to be more sensitive to their needs.”

Union officials estimate roughly 800,000 workers will be furloughed as "non-essential" employees in the event of a government shutdown and will demand retroactive pay because the furloughs would "add insult to injury for workers who have been living under a pay freeze for three years."

“We are trying to maintain pressure on this White House that in the event of a government shutdown, that any negotiated settlement includes an agreement that all federal employees — essential and non-essential alike — get paid when the government reopens,” Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE), told The Hill

IFPTE is not the only union that will be aggressively demanding back pay. 

AFSA, a union that represents the workers of U.S. Foreign Service, reportedly waived signs on Friday urging the government not to shut down. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) "is organizing protests that will begin on Monday outside federal agencies and run through next week" and will lobby for back pay. In addition, members of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) are also planning rallies and demanding back pay; NTEU President Colleen Kelley said back pay would be "absolutely, positively" a priority in the event of a shutdown. 

Beth Moten, AFGE's legislative director, said her union was considering legal action to obtain back pay for union workers. 

“Our attorneys are looking at that right now. No final decision has been made yet,” Moten said.

According to The Hill, furloughed federal workers received back pay after the government shut down twice in the 1990s, but there are no such guarantees this year. 


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