WASHINGTON – The nation’s largest federal employee union has sued the Obama administration for failing to explain how federal programs and services would be impacted if a government shutdown occurs.
The American Federation of Government Employees filed a lawsuit in federal court on March 30 seeking details on agencies’ shutdown plans, AFGE National President John Gage announced today at a National Press Club newsmaker event.
AFGE filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Office of Management and Budget on March 2 seeking copies of agencies’ contingency plans for continuing operations during a government shutdown. AFGE filed the lawsuit after OMB failed to respond to the FOIA request.
AFGE and other unions have been provided with little information on how a shutdown would impact agency programs and services and how agencies would determine which employees are essential. A government shutdown will occur if Congress does not pass legislation to fund government operations after April 8.
“It’s not something that should be cavalierly handled. If a shutdown goes on, there will be federal employees who are going to be hurt financially,” Gage said. “They should know before the eve of a shutdown what is happening and it should be done orderly and not in a last-minute rush.”
Federal agencies can require certain employees to work, even if there is a government shutdown, by deeming them essential. There is no guarantee that these employees will be paid for work performed during a shutdown, Gage said.
Gage sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on March 28, stating AFGE’s position that requiring federal employees to work without getting paid violates the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits involuntary servitude. He also sent a letter to Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry on March 28, asking how long “essential employees” can be required to work during a shutdown without being paid.
If a shutdown does occur, Gage said AFGE will be calling on employees to report to their job sites early next week to demonstrate that they are ready to go back to work.
“The American public can see at least that federal employees know the importance of their jobs and that political games should not be played with their services or with their jobs,” Gage said.
Further details on the back-to-work action will be posted on www.afge.org as they become available.