Photo: Getty

The following is an open letter from two employees of the federal government. Due to a fear of losing their jobs, they have chosen to remain anonymous.


This Shutdown Is a Poison to the Nation and Labor Action Is the Antidote

To our fellow Americans and federal employees,

We are into the fourth week of this absurd government shutdown which has left 800,000 federal workers without pay around the United States. In one more week, workers will miss another paycheck, bringing catastrophe for many of them and their families.

This farce has continued long enough. The indignities to both the federal workforce and the American public should never have been allowed to go this far. It is time for federal workers to organize and strike the government.

This shutdown has directly impacted the Department of Agriculture, the EPA, the FDA, the FAA, HUD, the Department of Homeland Security (including FEMA and the TSA), the Department of the Interior, the State Department, the Treasury, the Commerce Department, and the General Services Administration. Due to the broad range of furloughed employees, the nation is not prepared for a catastrophe to occur, be it manmade or natural. We are but a major storm, earthquake, disease outbreak, and/or terrorist attack away from calamity.

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The administration, its political appointees, and their allies in Congress know this, which brings us to a greater indignity these monstrous men and women wish to bring upon federal workers. Each department and agency was required to prepare a shutdown contingency plan which included the designation of “essential” workers, meaning people who are required to continue working without pay. These are the TSA officers staffing the lines at airports, the FAA air traffic controllers directing planes, the small group of FDA inspectors checking on high-risk produce and food, the IRS employees keeping the wheels on the American economy, and many others.

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Cynically, the administration and its lackeys are illegally changing the designations of more federal workers to “essential,” meaning more people are going to be forced into servitude so that the administration can blunt the effect of this shutdown. It has been reported that nearly 50,000 IRS employees are to be recalled to process tax refunds, and that more FAA and FDA workers are being called into work without pay. Even more cynically, the administration has recalled DOI employees to work without pay to process oil and gas leases so that our public lands can be exploited to boost the profits of those private businesses which support this administration. This is an incredible breach of the public trust and democracy.

This administration is using the shutdown and its effects to pick and choose which parts of the federal government to operate to the benefits of its masters in industry. Oil and gas easements are granted, but no inspections of facilities to ensure environmental and safety laws are conducted. Tax refunds are processed, but no audits will be conducted against wealthy tax cheats.

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Without direct action, the inevitable endgame is that more and more federal employees who were hired to fulfill democratic laws will quit because they can’t afford their bills, and the deconstruction of the federal workforce will be greatly accelerated, leaving the most vulnerable Americans unprotected. This will also lead to an undemocratic privatization of government services when certain functions are rebuilt.

To prevent this, those who are currently deemed “essential” and those who are being recalled must strike and refuse to work without pay.

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Each federal employee is required to take an oath of office when they are onboarded, declaring that they will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That includes an obligation to protect the United States from politicians that seek to use the apparatus of the federal government against the nation. It’s time for federal workers that are still on duty to stand united against the cynical machinations of Washington and put our oath into practice.

The administration knows that even if only 10 percent of essential and exempt federal employees walk off the job, the workings of the American economy will slow to a grind, creating a cascading effect of delays, closings and cost overruns that will quickly overwhelm political executives and appointees. The work that we do as federal workers, especially those of us deemed essential, touches many aspects of the American and global economy. A noticeable slowdown, if not an outright stop, of commerce, transit, logistics and production will bring this outrage against our nation to an end.

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Taking direct, concerted action against the administration now will bring this shutdown to an end, put us all back to work in service to the nation and send a message to current and future administrations that the work of the civil service should never be used as a political tool to advance a partisan agenda.

As public employees, we often put our own political power aside at work in service to the broader goals of a professional, efficient, apolitical civilian government. The time has come to put that aside and take direct action to end this shutdown.

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If you’re an “essential” federal employee reading this, join your union today, and call in sick as soon as possible. If you’re a member of the public, support federal employees by calling Congress and demanding that they end this shutdown now.

Solidarity forever,

Your fellow federal workers