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Workers Walk A Tightrope As Shutdown Puts Paychecks On Hold

Airport

As the government shutdown drags into its 28th day over the $5-billion border wall, Federal workers are still showing up to work even though they’re not getting paid, and to prevent a breaking point, Trump has signed a new bill into law guaranteeing back pay for those federal employees who are taking a hit. Perhaps it will be enough to stave off a walk-out for anyone who is feeling less patriotic than usual.

Some 800,000 federal workers did not receive paychecks that would have gone out last Friday, while around a dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers have pledged to donate their salaries or simply refuse them during the shutdown. Which runs in contrast to other names that have come up on the pay issue, while both sides trade barbs.

For instance, Trump recently questioned why Speaker Nancy Pelosi is getting paid during the shutdown, and he was criticized himself earlier this month for planning to raise pay for Pence and a few others at a time when hundreds of thousands of federal employees are in trouble. 

Unlike the federal employees, the rest of the country working for the private sector at least is going about its business as usual, wondering when the next shoe will drop in the Democrats-vs-Trump tit-for-tat.

And not all federal employees have been so generous with their unpaid work time. An increasing number of Transportation Security Agency (TSA) workers have called in sick, and airports in Houston and Miami shut down terminal checkpoints over the weekend. Still, the TSA says it’s not impacting safety and security, though they must also realize that such a statement suggests that those employees were possibly redundant, then, in the security equation.   Related: How Tech Is Decentralizing The Energy Industry

The head of the U.S. Secret Service R.D. "Tex" Alles warned employees that financial stress can lead to depression and anxiety. "Keep an eye out for warning signs of trouble," Alles wrote in a memo seen by Reuters. 

Federal courts, which are not controlled by the administration, said that court offices will run out of money January 25—which means that after that point, essential staff will have to work for no pay.

Food and Drug Administration hadn't been inspecting food since the partial shutdown began but announced earlier this week that inspectors would return, without pay, to start inspections again, so presumably, people should feel secure enough to buy things like eggs, or any sort of fruit and vegetables.

Meanwhile, the Democrat-held House has passed a series of bills in recent days to individually reopen several agencies, including the departments of Treasury, Interior and Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency. But there is no concrete indication as to when that might be. For it’s all being held hostage to meetings that go nowhere.

The end game might be in site when masses of TSA employees stage a walkout. That would cripple U.S. air travel and likely provided impetus to shutdown talks, even more so if it messes up the Super Bowl. But legally, unpaid federal workers are prohibited from striking in protest of a government shutdown. They’d technically have to all call in sick. Otherwise, they could be criminally prosecuted at worst, and banned from ever holding a government job again, at best.

So it’s not exactly patriotism that’s keeping unpaid federal workers at work—it’s the lack of an alternative in the face of potential criminal punishment.

By Charles Benavidez for Safehaven.com

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