AFGE Thanks EPA Workers by AFGE, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

If anyone has noticed, a portion of the federal government is technically shutdown over an impasse over funding an expansion of the existing wall on the border with Mexico. These are the facts. Everyone whose agency is “shut down” will only be in danger of missing a check if the current situation continues beyond January 11. Even if that check isn’t issued, the arrearages will be made good when funding resumes. Some number of workers in those agencies, primarily positions dealing directly with public health and safety, will be required to come into work while on a “no pay” status. Most employees are now on a furlough. (For the record, I’ve been furloughed before and not for nearly long enough to suit me.) There are people who are going to be hurt. Most federal contractors in the affected agencies were issued “stop work” orders because the agency contracting personnel and their supervising federal employees are furloughed. This loss is not made good by the government, the employees there are either paid out of overhead, moved to different projects, or are actually sent home without pay. A lot of small contractors will not survive two weeks in this environment.

Be that as it may, in a struggle to appear vaguely relevant and to be a card-carrying member of the #Resistance, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has sued the Trump administration:

The nation’s largest union representing federal employees filed a lawsuit Monday afternoon against the government, seeking damages for the roughly 400,000 federal employees forced to work without pay during the partial government shutdown.

The two plaintiffs — Justin Tarovisky and Grayson Sharp — work for high-security prisons the Justice Department runs. The American Federation of Government Employees argues that both plaintiffs have dangerous jobs and have been forced to work overtime without pay.

The is just failure theater. It is a “we’re fighting for you” PR campaign by the union. Factually, no one is forcing any of these people to work for deferred pay. They are free to resign at any time they wish. They are making a conscious decision that the long-term upside to keeping their job is greater than the annoyance of working while colleagues are sitting home. The AFGE, and all federal unions, are uniquely toothless. They can’t strike or do work slow downs (though you’d be forgiven for thinking they did), they can’t negotiate pay or raises or time off or promotions. Their primary purpose is to provide paid sinecures for a handful of connected union reps, to swill union dues, and to f*** with effective managers.

Because this is Trump and because the case is filed in DC, we can bet a federal judge is going to issue an injunction declaring that these people must be paid regardless of any appropriation by Congress. You can nearly bet on it. In fact, one nearly hopes this happens and maybe we’ll see some check put on the ability of federal judges to act as monarchs.

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