By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
I keep hoping that I can stop writing about the federal government shutdown/lockout. Hopefully, when you read this, it will all be over. But even when it’s over, it won’t be over.
Case in point: I have a friend who works for the federal government. What she and many of her colleagues are wondering, in addition to when the shutdown/lockout will end, is whether there will be more of these idiotic Republican tactics in the future? The implications are actually quite sobering. If, as it appears, that Tea Party Republicans have decided to advance their agenda by creating a series of crises, this raises questions about the ability of federal workers to remain confident that there is actually a future for them in public service.
Think about it for a moment. Even with the apparent commitment by Congress to make whole federal workers for their lost wages, the reality is that the banks are not giving borrowers a free pass; I know of no mortgage company that is allowing federal workers to hold back on their mortgage payments until the end of the shutdown; I am unfamiliar with food stores providing resources to families on the assumption that they will be reimbursed when this shutdown/lockout is over.
As a result, each federal worker and contract employee must reflect on whether they can actually afford to continue to work in the federal service. How many more times will there be such lockouts? What sorts of plans can any federal worker make for the future?
There are already discussions in the mainstream media of how the shutdown/lockout has affected research being conducted in various federal scientific agencies and departments. This will become a chronic problem leading to an eventual grinding to a halt of major work coupled with the exit of federal employees.
Did I say “eventual?” There has actually been an exit underway. As federal workers have been demonized by the political Right and treated as scapegoats, through antics like sequestration, we have seen federal workers going for early retirements or other means of exiting the system.
One has to ask whether it is in the interests of the people of this country to lose talented, long-term employees from the federal government. The impact will ultimately be the increase in contract employees who will be paid less; have less secure employment; few, if any benefits…
That’s right. If that sounds familiar, that is the objective of the Tea Party Republicans.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. works for the American Federation of Government Employees. The content of this commentary does not necessarily represent the views of AFGE. He is also the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us”—And Twenty Other Myths about Unions.
Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.