Federal workers union sues Trump admin over government shutdown

By Owen Daugherty – 12/31/18 04:28 PM EST 1,928
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One of the country’s largest unions representing federal workers is suing the Trump administration over the government shutdown, claiming that it is illegal to require employees to work without pay.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union released a statement on Monday announcing its lawsuit as the shutdown stretches past a week.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, alleges that the federal government is in violation of the law by requiring some federal workers, many of which are represented by the union, to work without pay during the shutdown.

“Our members put their lives on the line to keep our country safe,” J. David Cox Sr., president of AFGE, said in the release. “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.”

AFGE also denounced the shutdown earlier this month.

The partial shutdown began on Dec. 22 after the House and Senate failed to agree on an end-of-year government spending bill.

Democrats and Republicans are at odds over President Trump’s demands for $5 billion to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. He has said he will not sign a spending bill that does not include his desired border wall funding.

Many federal employees work during the partial shutdown and receive backpay once the government is funded again, but the lawsuit alleges that practice is unlawful.

The law firm Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch is representing the union in its lawsuit.

“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,” Heidi Burakiewicz, a partner at the firm, said in the release.

The lawsuit comes just days after the Trump administration issued an executive order to freeze federal workers’ pay after the new year. The proposal to cancel a 2.1 percent pay increase was first announced in August.

The White House did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

—Updated at 4:49 p.m.

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