An opinion writer for the Washington Post, frustrated on behalf of the furloughed workers during the shutdown over border security, has proposed an interesting theory as to how we can all feel better that innocent bureaucrats aren’t getting their paychecks (right away): “essential” workers should just walk off the job.
On Monday, Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Stevenson called for what amounts to a wildcat strike by the nation’s Transportation Security Administration agents, while over the weekend, veteran labor reporter Bob Hennelly at Salon went even further, pondering a national general strike in support of the 800,000 federal workers currently not receiving a paycheck.
It’s about time.
The federal government has been partially closed for business due to President “I am proud to shut down the government” Trump’s intransigence for 24 long days. During that time, 800,000 federal workers and a large number of federal contractors have not received paychecks, even as about 420,000 government employees are deemed so “essential” they are required to still turn up and do their jobs. For the most part, they are doing just that. After all, if they don’t, they could be fired and their unions fined. The law forbids federal employees from striking, which is why a number of federal unions and workers have taken to the courts, alleging everything from violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act to claims that demanding workers show up for their jobs even though they have no idea when they will receive a paycheck amounts to “indentured servitude” and is an unconstitutional violation of the 13th Amendment.
In this crucial way, the many federal workers potentially have the leverage to stick it to Trump and put an end to the shutdown.
Hoo boy. Putting aside for a second how unbelievably cavalier it is to ask people to strike in violation of the law or give up their jobs so Democrats can win their political game, what this writer is suggesting is actually proving the point that many who desire a smaller government are trying to make: there are possibly WAY too many government employees. So many, in fact, that the only way to make the average person feel any effect of the non-essential worker furlough is to demand that those who are essential — because they have important jobs like security screening at airports — stop working. Otherwise, people won’t know the difference.
As The American Spectator puts it:
But most Americans regard “idle” and “bureaucrat” as synonyms. For those of us who have spent our lives toiling in the private sector, where employees are expected to produce things, “nonessential worker” is a concept that has no meaning. In the real world beyond the Beltway, businesses hire people because they have some “essential” task that must be performed. Thus, we aren’t often moved to tears when told “nonessential workers” will be sent home because of a government shutdown…
The Spectator also points out that Democrats have made a choice in the shutdown fight: they would prefer to allow government workers, which presumably includes many of their voters, to go without a paycheck rather than address border security.
And now, apparently, there are calls from some of their preferred media outlets for those workers to simply quit.
Sorry that’s the kind of support you’re receiving, federal bureaucrats. The good news, as has been reported since last summer, there are more jobs in the private sector than there are people to fill them. So, if you do quit, you have a decent shot of being employed fairly quickly.