Brown Comments On Government Shutdown

Staff Writer

With the shutdown of the federal government extending into its third week, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) held a conference call with reporters across the state Wednesday to discuss the impact the shuttering of the government is having on not only federal workers but also those contracted to work in federal buildings.

Of the 800,000 federal employees who are either furloughed or are working without pay, Brown said 6,569 of them are in the Buckeye State. That count, however, doesn't include everyone impacted by the shutdown, he said.

"Those numbers don't even include federal contract workers, contractors, many of them low income workers, security guards, cooks, custodians," he explained. "The people who clean the floors and prepare the food in federal buildings are many times not federal employees. Unless Congress acts, those workers will not receive any back pay for the work they're doing.

"I'm working with my colleague Senator [Tina] Smith [D] from Minnesota, to try and get these workers back pay and I supported measures to get our federal workers back pay that they've earned."

In December, Congress voted in favor of a spending measure to avoid the current shutdown but the bill went unsigned by President Donald Trump. Now legislators are working to figure out a way to get federal employees back to work and getting paid for the work they do as soon as possible.

On the call with Brown, he introduced Paul Greenberg, a scientist at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and vice president of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 28. Greenberg represents the 1,590 unpaid workers at NASA-Glenn and spoke to reporters about the impact he has seen and felt personally.

"I can speak directly to the harm the shutdown is causing in our workforce ... we're now in the third week of this impasse and none of us are getting paid," Greenberg has said. "As with everyone else, we have our own financial obligations, mortgages, car payments, utilities, medical bills and such. I've been hearing considerable anxiety from the people I represent and I haven't heard a single instance where they have been granted leniency from their creditors. 

"Between federal employees and government contractors, millions of people are being impacted in negative ways."

The Glenn Research Center, formed in 1942, is one of 10 major NASA field centers that develop technology for use in aeronautics and space. In addition to the research center, several other government agencies — such as the Customs and Border Patrol, Forest Service firefighters and National Weather Service forecasters — will continue to work but will not be paid for their work until after the shutdown. Nine other agencies are completely closed during the partial shutdown.

When the conference call was turned back over to Brown, he was quick to plead with the Trump administration to look beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and think about the little guy.

"I call on the president to think about these workers ... to think about the TSA agents in Cleveland, workers like Mr. Greenberg at NASA and reopen the government," he said. "This is a huge loss to hourly-wage workers and as important as Paul and the people he works with at NASA are, at least people talk about them. In the past, these hourly people were not in stories at all."