We Are The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For: Federal
Workers Don’t Have To Be The Sacrificial Lambs for Trump’s Political Hijinks to
Fund His Wall! with Hector
Figueroa, President, Local 32BJ, SEIU
million workers are locked out or being forced to work without pay. Others are
going to work when our workspace is
increasingly unsafe. What is the Labor Movement waiting for?
Go back with Fierce Urgency of NOW to talk
with your Locals and International unions about
all workers joining together. To End this
Shutdown with a General Strike." Sara Nelson,
President of the Association of Flight
The federal government shut down on December 22, locking
out almost 400,000 workers and forcing another 400,000 deemed “essential” to
show up to work without pay. A larger number of employees working for employers
with Federal contracts were laid off with no hope of ever recouping their
losses. The public was also hurt by their loss of government services including
increased risks to aviation safety,
The ongoing holiday lockout is
the most recent insult the federal government has hurled at its workers. But pay
and benefits have been deteriorating for years, and conditions look set to
degrade even faster in the near future.According to data compiled by Government
Executive, civilian federal workers have received an annualized raise of 1.48
percent per year since 2008, including three years of zero raises under
President Obama. During the same period, workers’ health insurance premiums
increased up to 7 percent a year, though more recently the increase has been
And this year, President Trump not only threatened a wage freeze
for federal employees, he also proposed cutting their retirement benefits by
$143.5 billion. Congress counter-proposed a 1.9 percent wage increase, but with
the government shut down, it is unclear whether federal workers will receive
raises or maintain their pension benefits this year. A recent study found that
federal workers’ salaries are already 31 percent below comparable jobs in the
private sector on average, though the disparity varies greatly by job
Many of these workers are union members, affiliated with the
American Federal Government Employees (AFGE). The union sued the federal
government, claiming that it is illegal to require workers to work without
paying them. But a more militant labor movement could respond to a shutdown
very differently, with mass demonstrations across the country for example.
Federal workers are strategically positioned to take advantage of.
seizing the “choke points” within the U.S. economy and society.. There’s a
potential army of 400,000 furloughed federal workers, not just in D.C. but based
at government offices across the country. What if, taking a note from the yellow
vests movement in France, these workers and their allies established “picket
lines” blocking major roads and highways, halting all nonemergency traffic?
Certainly that traffic would also include package delivery trucks and tractor
trailers hauling goods for their own high-demand peak season.
the political fallout of this massive economic disruption, all because Trump
wants a border wall. Even the MAGA hat-wearers would likely prefer their
packages delivered on time over a wall that they will never even see. The
reopening of the government under these conditions would be a massive victory of
the labor movement, a product of our own collective efforts rather than that of
closed-door negotiations between legislators and the White House.
federal workers want to stop the attacks on their livelihoods and their dignity,
the only realistic path is the same as for any group of workers facing a mean
and unpredictable boss, cuts to pay and benefits in real dollars, and unexpected
furloughs: they need to organize. Federal workers won’t be consistently treated
with real respect and dignity until they can present a credible threat to shut
down the government — on their terms, not their bosses.