One of the country’s largest unions has brought a lawsuit against Donald Trump for illegally shutting down part of the U.S. government while still requiring employees to work without getting paid. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union, which represents federal workers, filed the suit yesterday.
The key claim in the AFGE legal action is that while Donald Trump has “shut down” about one-fourth of the U.S. government, 420,000 employees are still working in agencies that have supposedly been “shut down.” The only thing shut down is their pay. These workers are not receiving paychecks but still have to go to work. And the union contends that it is illegal to require federal employees to continue to do their jobs without getting paid for it..
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, alleges that the federal government is violating federal law by requiring some federal workers, many of which are represented by the union, to work without pay.
David Cox Sr., president of AFGE, said in the release:
“Our members put their lives on the line to keep our country safe. Requiring them to work without pay is nothing short of inhumane. Positions that are considered ‘essential’ during a government shutdown are some of the most dangerous jobs in the federal government.”
Cox and the AFGE also denounced the shutdown in a statement it issued in early December.
The partial shutdown began after the House and Senate failed to agree on an end-of-year government spending bill. They had earlier reached a tentative agreement but then President Trump changed his mind and said he would not sign the bill approved by Congress because it did not contain $5 billion in funding for his promised border wall with Mexico.He has continually said he will not sign a spending bill that does not include his border wall funding.
Many federal employees work during the partial shutdown and receive back pay once the government opens again, but the lawsuit alleges that practice is unlawful.
The law firm Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch which represents the union in its lawsuit issued a press release saying:
“Approximately 420,000 federal employees are continuing to work, but don’t know when they will get their next paychecks. This is not an acceptable way for any employer, let alone the U.S. government, to treat its employees. These employees still need to pay childcare expenses, buy gas, and incur other expenses to go to work every day and yet, they are not getting paid. It is a blatant violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
Last week Trump also issued an executive order freezing federal employee wages in 2019. His action cancelled a 2.1 percent pay increase that was scheduled to go into effect in the new year.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.