Federal workers union sues over possible shutdown
A leading federal employees union that represents 14,615 government workers who live in Maryland sued President Barack Obama’s administration over what it calls a lack of information about how a government shutdown would be implemented if Congress fails to pass a spending plan by Friday, the union’s president said Tuesday.
John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said workers don't yet know whether they would be out of a job during the shutdown or deemed “essential” and required to work through it. The union also wants to know if essential employees would be paid. Gage said federal agencies have repeatedly failed to answer those questions.
"It's not something that should be cavalierly handled. If a shutdown goes on, there will be federal employees who are going to be hurt financially," Gage, of Baltimore, said at an event at the National Press Club in Washington Tuesday. "They should know before the eve of a shutdown what is happening and it should be done orderly and not in a last-minute rush.”
The White House and congressional leaders are working to reach an agreement on a stop-gap spending plan to keep the federal government running through the end of September. The current short-term spending measure runs out Friday. Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with Obama at the White House on Tuesday, but failed to reach an agreement.
"There’s no reason why we should not get this done," Obama said after the meeting. "And we’ve got more than enough to do than to be spending our time going back and forth, quibbling around the edges on something this important to the American people."
Boehner has argued that many of the budget cuts proposed by the White House are accounting gimmicks: "We’re not going to allow the Senate and White House to force us to choose between two options that are bad for America," he said in a statement, "whether it’s a bad deal that fails to make real spending cuts, or accepting a government shutdown due to Senate inaction."
The lawsuit was filed March 30 in U.S. District Court in Washington and names Jacob Lew, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the defendant.
In a statement, an OMB spokeswoman said the budget agency has taken "unprecedented steps to improve government transparency" as part of the planning for a possible shutdown.
"We still believe that there is an opportunity to avoid a costly government shutdown, which would cause undue harm to the lives of federal employees, the services millions of Americans rely on, and the economic recovery underway," OMB spokeswoman Meg Reilly said in the statement. "Plans for shutdown operations, which are governed by the law, remain in development...When plans are finalized and reviewed for sensitive information, we will work with agencies to provide [them] to the public."