As I posted a few days ago, government unions decided that in the current judicial environment, where Lex Trumporum is the law of the land, they would go to court to force the federal government to pay federal workers who are classified as “essential.” These employees, typically law enforcement and public health types, must show up to work even though they aren’t getting paid.
This would be a good trick if you could make it work. It would mean that any federal judge could order the appropriation of funds, no matter what Congress and the president decided. It would also imply that these employees are like medieval serfs, that they are bound to their jobs. I our real world, these employees have an distasteful choice to make. They can work without pay, thereby retaining their job, knowing they will be made whole when a budget agreement is reached. Or, they can resign and find other employment. Regardless of how ridiculous the entire lawsuit was, it generated substantial NeverTrump porn:
A federal judge on Tuesday will decide whether to grant a temporary order requiring the U.S. to pay its workers or let them stay home or work elsewhere for wages, as the partial government shutdown — already the longest in American history — enters its 25th day.
Senior Judge Richard Leon in Washington is considering three lawsuits filed this month in which workers claim that their being forced to work without pay violates the U.S. Constitution and the Fair Labor Standards Act, among others.
A temporary restraining order, with its threat of court-ordered sanctions, would increase the pressure on President Donald Trump to find common ground with Congress. Half or more of Americans blame the president and his party for the impasse, according to six public opinion polls taken since the shutdown began, while only a third or fewer blame Democrats, who have already approved funding resolutions.
The judge has ruled and has thrown cold-water on the onanistic fantasy of a judicial order ending a budget standoff:
A federal judge in Washington on Tuesday refused to force the government to pay federal employees who have been working without compensation during the partial government shutdown, rejecting arguments from labor unions that unpaid work violates labor laws and the Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said it would be “profoundly irresponsible” to issue an order that would result in thousands of employees staying home from work.
“At best it would create chaos and confusion,” Leon said. “At worst it could be catastrophic . . . I’m not going to put people’s lives at risk.”
Even as he denied the unions’ request, the judge was sympathetic to the individual stories of federal workers struggling to pay for childcare and household expenses during the government shutdown. But Leon said he could not overstep his role as a judge to intervene in a political problem. Congress, not the judiciary, he noted, controls federal government spending.
“There is no doubt that real hardship is being felt,” Leon said. But “the judiciary is not and cannot be another source of leverage” in resolving political “squabbles.”
I sort of doubt that this will be the last word the courts have on the subject. The temptation by some judge in one of the notorious NeverTrump circuits to stick a finger in President Trump’s eye is simply going to be too much to resist.