Local federal employees miss first paycheck in shutdown

"This is just not something we can adjust to'

Sloane Martin
January 11, 2019 - 12:38 pm

President Donald Trump could declare a national emergency in order to get a southern border wall built. But until that happens -- or an agreement is reached with congress -- the federal shutdown continues. On its 21st day today, roughly 800-thousand employees missed their first paycheck.

From prison employees to air traffic controllers to TSA workers and more, local federal employees are being forced to make tough decisions.

"We're hearing stories where employees have to make a decision between buying prescription drugs or paying their utilities," Regional Vice President or the American Federation of Government Employees Gregg James said. "This is just not something we can adjust to. Missing a complete paycheck has an effect on all of us. I think most of the American public lives paycheck-to-paycheck these days and it's not fair that we were required to show up to work and get no pay."

William Axford, a Bureau of Prisons employees at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, says there's an emergency food shelf and workers are looking after one another.

"For Rochester, we have 13 or 14 couples that both the husband and wife work at the prison," he said. "They have nothing coming in. We have countless other employees that are either single parents or single income families that have nothing coming in. What this means for us is things that would normally be inconvenient -- your car breaks down, you have an unexpected medical bill. Those things now become backbreaking for us."

Sen. Tina Smith has joined 33 other senate Democrats in calling on the Trump administration to force federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay. She's also urging the Office of Management and Budget to partner with federal contracting officers to modify terms so employees receive lost wages.

TSA worker Celia Hahn says the employees at MSP Airport have been grinding through.

"Most of the employees really just want to be paid," she said. "The issues that are central to the shutdown should be separated from our jobs."