Relief must have been extraordinary last week for 800,000 federal employees when the 35-day government shutdown ended. Not only were they returning to work, they’re receiving back pay.
But for more than a million federal contract workers there was just partial relief. While they’re heading back to work, they aren’t getting back pay.
Contract workers are among the lowest paid federal employees, earning between $450 and $650 per week, union leaders tell The Washington Post. They’re often the cooks, the guards, the janitors, and other support workers at federal buildings.
Many of them cashed in sick days to generate some income during the shutdown. And they could soon be out of work again.
Discussing the likelihood of reaching a government-funding deal within the next three weeks, President Donald Trump said another shutdown was “certainly an option” if Congress can’t pass a bill that meets his approval, which means no less than $5.7 million in funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
There are some on Capitol Hill seeking to protect contract workers. A trio of Democratic senators last month introduced legislation to repay contractors and restore sick days for those affected by shutdowns. That bill’s passage, though, is far from certain.
It might not be necessary for future shutdowns, however. Two separate bills were introduced in the Senate this week, which are meant to ensure the government doesn’t shut down again.