Federal workers in shutdown limbo

Federal workers push back on shutdownFederal workers are making their voices heard, with just five days to go before a possible government shutdown. By Charles Riley, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- With just five days left before a government shutdown, federal workers are pressing lawmakers to cut a deal that will keep the government open for business.

The stakes are high. If lawmakers fail to pass some kind of spending bill by the end of Friday, hundreds of thousands of government employees are likely to be furloughed, and their paychecks stopped.

The National Treasury Employees Union and the National Federation of Federal Employees, which represent a combined 260,000 workers, announced Monday they have asked their members to call lawmakers and encourage them to strike a deal.

The goal is to make sure lawmakers understand the impact a shutdown would have on government workers, said William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees.

In already tough economic times, "One or two missing paychecks could spell disaster for these families," Dougan said.

And the impact wouldn't stop there. Dougan warned of an economic ripple effect into communities across the country that depend on federal workers and the dollars they spend.

Just who are these workers? According to government data, average employees are likely to be in their mid-40s.

They work in management, business or financial positions at the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs or Homeland Security.

They tend to have graduated from college, live outside of Washington and are white. They make around $74,000 a year.

And they are starting to feel a little picked on. Late last year, at President Obama's suggestion, Congress instituted a two-year freeze on federal worker pay.

At the same time, lawmakers have failed to enact a real budget six months after the fiscal year began. Instead they have passed six short-term spending bills that have left agencies uncertain about funding levels and struggling to perform their functions.

"In our view this is an untenable situation," National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley told reporters on Monday.

Workers are feeling the uncertainty. Shutdowns are not uncommon, but 15 years have passed since a battle over the budget resulted in workers being furloughed.

Here's how it would work: The government would keep essential services -- such as air traffic control and the national security apparatus -- in full operating mode.

Agencies go through a complicated process to decide which employees stay on the job, and which are asked to stay home. Each agency draws up its own plan.

But those plans have remained under wraps, much to the chagrin of Kelley and Dougan, who said agencies and the Obama administration are not communicating with workers.

"It seems absolutely, positively ridiculous," Dougan said. "I know the plans are there and I know the agencies have them."

The lack of information is making it difficult for employees -- who are facing the prospect of a pay stoppage -- to make contingency plans.

"It's disrespectful to hold these folks in limbo until the last minute," Dougan said.

Federal workers who are furloughed due to a shutdown usually receive back pay when Congress is able to pass a new spending bill. But lawmakers have to specifically authorize those funds, something that is not guaranteed.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Press secretary Jay Carney was asked about a possible shutdown on Monday.

"[T]here are procedures in place since the 1980's for this kind of situation," Carney said. "There's nothing unusual that this government and administration are doing."

With talks continuing on Capitol Hill, lawmakers might beat the clock and reach a deal. They usually do. Negotiators have thus far focused on six-month bill that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

If that fails, they could always do another short-term fix -- the seventh this year. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,789.10 111.20 0.67%
Nasdaq 4,475.79 23.00 0.52%
S&P 500 1,961.77 10.95 0.56%
Treasuries 2.28 0.00 0.00%
Data as of 3:09pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Ford Motor Co 13.79 -0.61 -4.24%
Microsoft Corp 45.94 0.92 2.04%
Apple Inc 104.92 0.09 0.09%
Bank of America Corp... 16.66 0.06 0.36%
Yahoo! Inc 43.50 0.90 2.12%
Data as of 2:53pm ET

Sections

Shares of Facebook recently topped $80. They've more than quadrupled from their post-IPO lows of two years ago. Can Mark Zuckerberg keep the momentum in mobile going? More

With oil and gas prices falling, some in Washington are questioning whether it makes sense to hold 106 days worth of supply in storage. More

Shares of Facebook recently topped $80. They've more than quadrupled from their post-IPO lows of two years ago. Can Mark Zuckerberg keep the momentum in mobile going? More

Using technology developed for the military and implemented in Iraq, schools have installed alarm systems that detect gunfire. More

Big purchases often come with big expectations. So it's no wonder that in a recent survey 80% of homebuyers said they regretted at least one thing about their home. Here are ways to improve those odds. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.