Federal workers union sues over shutdown; 'pay stubs reflect zero income'

Bureau of Indian Affairs Law Enforcement (photo Bureau of Indian Affairs)

Mark Trahant

Legal action comes as the shutdown continues in its fourth week with little prospect for resolution.

A group of federal employees who work in Indian Country have sued the federal government over its failure to pay them for their work. This action comes as the shutdown continues in its fourth week with little prospect for resolution.

The Federation of Indian Service Employees, a union representing federal workers across Indian country, filed the action in the U.S. Federal Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., according to a news release from the union. “We have received pay stubs that reflect zero income,” said Tony Rowe, a corrections officer with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “I’m starting to get collection notices. I’ve had to make a choice between putting food on the table, paying for gas, to get to work or making a monthly payment. I can tell you, real people are feeling real pain right now.”

Hundreds of federal employees face the same situation. By law they cannot strike. “They hold jobs in federal agencies whose mission is to provide essential services to Native people based on the U.S. government’s treaty obligations and trust responsibilities to Native American communities. The jobs are the often the only decent paying jobs around. The prolonged shutdown is an immediate threat to the basic needs of our members, many of whom cannot pay rent, medical bills, or utilities” the news release said. The The Federation of Indian Service Employees “intends to do everything it can to support members during this time by providing no-interest loans to dues payer through a program with the American Federation of Teachers union.”

Meanwhile in Washington there has been no movement bridging the gap between the Congress and the president. The president has demanded that Congress appropriate $5.7 billion for a border wall or he will not support funding for the remaining twenty-five percent of federal agencies. The House has passed several spending bills but the Senate will not consider them until the president agrees.

At the Defense Department Thursday the president blamed Democrats. “The federal government remains shut down because Congressional Democrats refuse to approve border security,” he said. “ We’re going to have border security. It’s going to be tight. It’s going to be strong. We’re going to let people into our country gladly, but they’re going to come in legally. That includes for the farmers who need help and for others. But we are going to have powerful, strong border security.”

The president also took a swipe at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by denying her a military trip to Afghanistan. On Wednesday the speaker suggested the president write his State of the Union rather than doing it person. Both said the reason was security-related during the shutdown. But it’s clear that both sides are trying to use any tactic available to get other side to give in.

Trump said: “While many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to make a deal, Speaker Pelosi will not let them negotiate. The Party has been hijacked by the open borders fringe within the Party. The radical left becoming the radical Democrats.”

The same “radical” Democrats that just won a national election by more than 8.6 million votes over the Republicans in the House.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports

Email: mtrahant@IndianCountrytoday.com

Indian Country Today interactive spreadsheets:

Impact of shutdown on tribal communities

Impact on individuals, nonprofits

Previous stories:

Mark Trahant talks #GovernmentShutdown and Indian Country on Democracy Now

The State of the Union postponed; speaker says first end the government shutdown

Congressional hearing looks at the impact of shutdown on Indian Country

President walks away from a Republican with a plan to reopen government

Waiting for a thaw in Washington

Out of touch? White House says unpaid workers are 'better off'

Tribal leaders say government closure puts citizens in jeopardy

Government Shutdown: Tribes suffer job losses, bad roads, no healthcare access

Comments (3)
No. 1-1

A win is a win is a win....yes. But when you consider the rampant "ballot harvesting" of thousands of ballots appearing weeks after the National Election, it begs the question: where are the States finding these ballots? A Deep State rebuke by letting Republican "control" of house burn by Paul "Rhino"Ryan and other House Repubs only opened up opportunities by a broken DNC to walk in and take over. So NO to your "fake news" Mark Trahant (of not telling the other side of story that gets left off).