OPINION – I have always been an advocate for the working men and women of this nation.
I want them to be rewarded for their hard work, promoted for their efforts, and have a little something they can fall back on to get them through some of the hard times life tends to send their way every now and then.
I have also always been an advocate for fairness, which is why I’m in a bad place right now.
About 800,000 federal employees were furloughed when the dim bulbs in Washington, D.C. decided to close down the government. Nearly half of those employees have been called back to work. That still leaves a fair number idle.
There are also quite a few private sector employees who, because of the shutdown and furlough of federal employees, are finding themselves out of work as well because their companies live off government contracts.
For a little background, if you are on furlough, you are lawfully required to step away from your job completely. You are not allowed to have any business contact with your company or the people you work with. You cannot go into your office. You cannot even open your work email account. You can socialize with co-workers, but you cannot discuss work or anything remotely connected with work. Once while on furlough the company announced that there would be another furlough in the second fiscal quarter. I was at a social event with one of my co-workers who held onto the secret. When I got back to work he told me how difficult it was for him to withhold the news.
But, those are the rules. When you are furloughed, it’s as if you don’t exist in the business world.
It’s a terrible place to be, in all honesty, knowing that you have a job, but that you just can’t do it because the bosses have decided to close the shop to boost profits and make the stock more appealing to investors.
The government shutdown is a little different in that regard. Instead of being controlled by investors, the federal workers were sent home by an angry, spiteful Congress.
Realizing, however, that those furloughed employees are also voters, Congress decided that instead of operating within the spirit and intent of a work furlough, they will provide retro pay as soon as the government goes back to work.
So, who really loses here?
You and I, partner. Our tax dollars are paying for an additional vacation for these furloughed federal workers.
Those who labor in the private sector, however, are simply out of luck. There will be no retro pay for them.
I’ve experienced the pain of furloughs, having to endure five different week-long furloughs over the course of two years because some corporate bean counter decided it was a way to make the numbers work better. It didn’t matter that the corporation was already cash rich. It looked good for investors and was a way of manipulating the stock price to satisfy the guys with deep pockets who hold title to the company. We endured the furloughs and struggled to get by, just so some fat cat could get fatter, based on some hoodoo math that made the numbers look good enough to prop up the stock price.
No, we didn’t receive retro pay.
Like the current federal employees, we had to endure a lengthy salary freeze. Open job requisitions were eliminated. Of course, any manager worth his salt always has two or three positions in their hip pocket they know will never be filled because it gives them a chit to toss onto the pile when workforce reductions are required.
But beyond the uncompensated time off and lack of raises, the benefit factor came into play. Insurance prices, as you all well know, do not decrease, at least not in these times.
Believe me, it all adds up.
Now, we are taking another one for the team as we spring for more vacation time for federal employees.
I understand it might be tight times for some of these families and I empathize. But, there was a run-up as we approached this shutdown and most reasonable families would have stocked up on the necessities to see them through.
Maybe the workers cannot afford to dash off to Bermuda or Hawaii during their time off, but, I am willing to bet they aren’t simply laying about as couch potatoes, thumbing through the TV offerings. Plus, they will be off long enough to draw unemployment, which, by the way, they will undoubtedly have to repay as soon as they are given their retro pay.
These same employees have already had to endure 48 hours of furlough time this year as a result of the budget sequestration and that’s a shame. But, there was no retro pay for that furlough because the purpose was to cut costs. It was a tough break, for sure, but this furlough? It may put a temporary strain on the worker’s budget, but the money thing will be taken care of as soon as the government opens for business again.
And, please excuse my cynicism when I mention that the immediate effects of the shutdown included a dip in the stock market, meaning prices went low. What happens when prices go low? The guys with the heavy bucks jump in and make a nice profit when the market turns around.
And, who feeds the campaign coffers? The rich guys.
Hmmm, could there be a connection?
Nah, Congress wouldn’t manipulate the nation’s economy, put undue stress on the nation’s workforce, and jeopardize our standing in the world’s eyes just to help the rich get richer, would it?
On second thought…
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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