As shutdown looms, employee unions ramp up activity

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered up a new short-term continuing resolution Thursday afternoon that would fund the government — and Planned Parenthood — through Dec. 11.

This comes after the Senate voted 47-52 to reject a stopgap measure that would keep the government open through Dec. 11 but redirect $235 million in Planned Parenthood federal funding to women’s health centers instead.

The Senate hasn’t scheduled a vote on McConnell’s new bill.

Congress has less than one week to find some sort of budget resolution before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

A group of 11 Republican freshman members have called on Congress to avoid a government shutdown next week, and several federal employee unions are adding their own voices to the opposition.

J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said he hasn’t received shutdown plans from any agency. The Office of Management and Budget told agencies Monday to “prepare for the possibility” of a shutdown.

AFGE, Cox said, also is getting ready. He said he spoke with his local union leaders, members of Congress and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“She assured me she would be right there side by side with us, just as she was in 2013,” he said.

Rather than issue preparation guidelines and advice for handling a shutdown, some federal employee unions are encouraging their members to petition their congressional representatives to keep the government open — or at least pass legislation for retroactive pay.

“Right now, the guidance we are issuing our members is to reach out to their representatives in Congress to plead with them to fund the government,” said National Federation of Federal Employees President William Dougan in an emailed statement to Federal News Radio. “Honestly, there is not a whole lot that can be done at the local level to avoid this partisan shutdown. And worse yet, the discussion surrounding this shutdown is rooted in a highly volatile and partisan fight that has absolutely nothing to do with the federal workforce.”

Greg Stanford, spokesman for the Federal Managers Association, said FMA is keeping its website updated for members with shutdown news, but “most agencies maintain their shutdown plans from year to year.”

Dougan said the National Federation of Federal Employees is advocating for The Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2015, which Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), introduced.

“Quite frankly, I can’t believe we’re back here again. The last shutdown was just two years ago,” said Jessica Klement, legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees association.  “We support Sen. [Ben] Cardin’s bill to provide retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees. Retroactive pay has been provided in the past, and we hope and expect it will be again. But federal employees certainly should not count on Congress doing the right thing.”

The financial implications of furloughs would be devastating for some federal employees, Cox said, and the impact of a potential shutdown would extend well past Washington. Roughly 85 percent of federal employees live outside the D.C. area.

“Many federal employees live paycheck-to-paycheck,” he said. “Most of our members take home about $500 a week …. The loss of even one week of pay can impact their ability pay their rent, childcare, car loans and groceries.”

If the government does close, Cox said AFGE will make its opposition loud and clear.

“We will not take this lying down,” he said.

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