PEERMail: Shutdown Lesson for Employees – Stop Being Pawns


Shutdown Lesson for Employees – Stop Being Pawns

This nightmarish government shutdown ended under a three-week truce as Trump threatens to do it again—for what would be the fourth government shutdown in two years.

For federal employees caught in the middle of this ridiculous standoff, this hardly engenders warm and fuzzy feelings.

For more than a month, some 420,000 federal employees were ordered to work without a paycheck because their jobs were deemed essential. That sent the families of many affected law enforcement officers, Coast Guard, TSA, and others to food banks.  Another 380,000 were just sent home.

Now, with the threat of another shutdown, families do not know whether to pay overdue bills or save up for another payless stretch.

One would think that federal employees in one of the world’s most developed democracies would have enviable rights and privileges. The shutdown skewered any such assumption.  Consider:

  • If essential employees denied paychecks chose not to show up, they may be declared AWOL and risk termination.
  • Moonlighting feds generally could not work in their field without ethics approval from officials who were also furloughed.
  • They were advised to become Uber drivers and babysit.

Some have called income alternatives for affected employees “an ethics minefield.” To help guide employees, PEER created a Shutdown Survival Guide.

Naturally, all of this has taken the shine off federal service as a career choice.  After all, a stable job is one of the stereotypical benefits of government work – but no longer.

At the same time, however, it has also given rise to new levels of employee activism. With time on their hands, our phones were ringing off the hook as employees shared details of what was taking place behind closed doors.

The seemingly oxymoronic mission of PEER is organizing civil servants for activism. Due to Trump-driven insanity, we are entering a new era and invite you to come along.

Impeach David Bernhardt

During the shutdown, PEER was flooded with employee reports about various shenanigans. At Interior, for example, acting Secretary Bernhardt ordered scores of employees back to do nonessential work to benefit oil and gas companies, ranchers, and hunting outfitters. This work may have violated the Antideficiency Act that forbids nonemergency work or creating new obligations (e.g., issuing permits) during a period of lapsed appropriation. Penalties for each violation range from criminal prosecution to removal from office.  Democrats in the newly blue House are investigating.  If they confirm these reports, we hope they dust off the impeachment machinery, and should consider getting rid of Mick Mulvaney while they are at it.

Poisoning Prairie Potholes – Woe to WOTUS

Even before the Trump plan to gut the Clean Water Act is finalized nonenforcement by EPA and its state partners is already doing damage. America’s most important waterfowl habitat – the Prairie Potholes Region – is slowly but steadily being poisoned by pesticides and other toxic agricultural runoff.

PEER’s newest campaign springs from the growing need to address this and other emerging threats to clean water access.

Antidote to Alternative Facts

Donald Trump is entitled to his opinion but seems to believe that he is also entitled to his own set of facts.  Increasingly, administrative records supporting official decisions and actions are being purged of inconvenient facts and evidence of dissent by agencies’ own experts. PEER is proposing legislation to end this censorship and put teeth into the statutory promise that the agency display “the whole record.” Please support this effort.

Thanks Goodness for “Haste and Ineptitude”

By cutting corners in its frenzy of attempted rollbacks, the Trump circle has left itself legally vulnerable. A new analysis finds that more than 90 percent of court challenges to major deregulatory actions have succeeded thus far.

One expert attributes this result to “haste and ineptitude” and (we would add) a generous side helping of hubris.

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