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Heading Back To Work, Furloughed Federal Workers In New York City ‘Remain Cautious About The Future’

Published Sunday, January 27, 2019
by Joe Maniscalco/
Heading Back To Work, Furloughed Federal Workers In New York City ‘Remain Cautious About The Future’

(NEW YORK CITY) – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Engineer Anthony Tseng was inside the Downtown Community Television Center on Lafayette Street in Manhattan on Friday night (January 25th), along with friends and colleagues cautiously celebrating the end of the longest government shutdown in U.S History, when he got an e-mail confirming that he and his Co-Workers would, in fact, finally be returning to work on Monday. 

“If this happened in private practice, if there was a company that was laying off (10%/15%) of their Employees or telling them to ‘go home and come back’ – ‘I don’t think that corporation would be viewed very highly,’” the father of two told LaborPress. “But the government doing that, ‘I think there’s a certain double standard here.’  ‘I definitely feel in terms of corporate ethics, President Trump is the CEO of the company and he has a moral responsibility to all the Employees.’”

After more than a month sidelined without pay while Republican President Donald Trump tried his damnedest to blackmail Congress into giving him billions of dollars to build a “big, beautiful” border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, few Federal Employees appear confident they won’t be out of work once again after the new deal to reopen the government expires in three weeks.  “This continuing resolution ‘is not a full-year’s budget and we may end up in the same place again,’” Tseng said. “Since we’re ‘already breaking records now, it’s not off the table that we won’t break another record on the next (government shutdown).’”

Franco DiCroce, who heads International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 98, put the chances of that happening at about “50-50.”   “We ‘shouldn’t have to pay for politics and not being able to compromise, or come to an agreement in Washington,’” DiCroce told LaborPress. “That’s ‘their’ job – ‘we pay these people to pass laws.’  The budget is ‘part of the law.’  They ‘should just get that done and get it solved.’  Some people ‘don’t want to do that and that’s a little bit of childish behavior.’”

According to Tseng, morale inside the EPA was already suffering before Trump’s government shutdown hit over a month ago and the ensuing 35 days has only created more “anxiety,” “stress” and “anger” amongst Workers.  

Just a day before Trump caved and agreed to reopen the government while he and the Democratic leadership continue to squabble over money for his border wall - Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross dismissed the pain locked-out Federal Workers and their families had been experiencing, suggesting they could always take out bank loans to cover expenses. 

 “Well I’ve ‘always believed that you ought to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you judge them,’” Tseng told LaborPress. “I ‘don’t tend to judge a lot of people because of that.’  I ‘don’t have that many feet to walk in other people’s shoes.’  ‘I think, perhaps, it would have maybe been better if they asked us what we’re going through before staying stuff like that.’  ‘It does make it sound like (Ross) is out of touch.’”

Indeed, while the government shutdown had been in effect, DiCroce said Federal Employees have been feeling like the pieces being pushed around a chess board.  “It ‘doesn’t feel good,’” the IFPTE Local 98 President said. “You ‘feel like you’re being used as pawns in somebody else’s deal.’  ‘Uncertainty of income makes you antsy.’  ‘Theoretically, you should be saving, but you make ($30,000 to $40,000) a year, you can only save so much.’  ‘Rent is high, the cost of living is high - especially if you have kids.’”

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