A group of federal employees who work in Indian Country have sued the federal government over its failure to pay them for their work. This action comes as the shutdown continues in its fourth week with little prospect for resolution.
The Federation of Indian Service Employees, a union representing federal workers across Indian country, filed the action in the U.S. Federal Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., according to a news release from the union. “We have received pay stubs that reflect zero income,” said Tony Rowe, a corrections officer with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “I’m starting to get collection notices. I’ve had to make a choice between putting food on the table, paying for gas, to get to work or making a monthly payment. I can tell you, real people are feeling real pain right now.”
Hundreds of federal employees face the same situation. By law they cannot strike. “They hold jobs in federal agencies whose mission is to provide essential services to Native people based on the U.S. government’s treaty obligations and trust responsibilities to Native American communities. The jobs are the often the only decent paying jobs around. The prolonged shutdown is an immediate threat to the basic needs of our members, many of whom cannot pay rent, medical bills, or utilities” the news release said. The The Federation of Indian Service Employees “intends to do everything it can to support members during this time by providing no-interest loans to dues payer through a program with the American Federation of Teachers union.”
Meanwhile in Washington there has been no movement bridging the gap between the Congress and the president. The president has demanded that Congress appropriate $5.7 billion for a border wall or he will not support funding for the remaining twenty-five percent of federal agencies. The House has passed several spending bills but the Senate will not consider them until the president agrees.
At the Defense Department Thursday the president blamed Democrats. “The federal government remains shut down because Congressional Democrats refuse to approve border security,” he said. “ We’re going to have border security. It’s going to be tight. It’s going to be strong. We’re going to let people into our country gladly, but they’re going to come in legally. That includes for the farmers who need help and for others. But we are going to have powerful, strong border security.”
The president also took a swipe at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by denying her a military trip to Afghanistan. On Wednesday the speaker suggested the president write his State of the Union rather than doing it person. Both said the reason was security-related during the shutdown. But it’s clear that both sides are trying to use any tactic available to get other side to give in.
Trump said: “While many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to make a deal, Speaker Pelosi will not let them negotiate. The Party has been hijacked by the open borders fringe within the Party. The radical left becoming the radical Democrats.”
The same “radical” Democrats that just won a national election by more than 8.6 million votes over the Republicans in the House.
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports
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