In perhaps the most ironic twist of the entire government shutdown, the first employees to level a lawsuit at the President over not just their lost wages but the fact that they’re being forced to actually work without pay are the people Trump says are happiest about the shutdown: The Border Patrol.
The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 33 different agencies and some 150,000 employees across the country, is using the Fair Labor Standards Act to sue the Trump administration. The law, called in 1938 “the most important Act” since Social Security in the New Deal era by President Roosevelt, is the reason America has a minimum wage and overtime laws.
The NTEU filed the suit on behalf of Eleazar Avalos and James Davis, agents and officers of Customs and Border Patrol, but the number of employees it alleges are being forced to work unpaid is upwards of 400,000, many of them members of the union.
Despite the demands by Trump for $5.7 billion to build a border wall that ground the government to a halt on December 22, many employees of the federal government are considered “essential” and therefore expected to work even if their pay doesn’t come as scheduled. CBP officers fall in the category of “performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”
Many would argue that the entire federal government should either fall under that designation or, uh, be eliminated. Well, maybe not “emergency,” but then, many would argue that the Border Patrol isn’t doing emergency work either.
The precedent for this suit doesn’t look good for the Trump administration, either. A federal judge ruled in 2017 that the government owed not just regular pay but back pay and extra compensation for workers who were affected by the 16-day 2013 government shutdown initiated by Republicans in an effort to overturn President Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
This shutdown has already lasted longer than that, and these workers deserve at least the same measure of justice.
Featured image via screen capture