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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton Remarks on House-Passed Bill to Guarantee Back Pay to Federal Workers Affected by Current and Future Shutdowns

Jan 11, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today submitted remarks into the congressional record in support of a bill to guarantee back pay to federal employees who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay during government shutdowns.  Norton also called for back pay federal contract workers, who are not due to get back pay, as provided by her Low-Wage Federal Contractor Employee Back Pay Act of 2019.

Norton’s full remarks for the record follow.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

On the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019

Ms. NORTON.  Madam Speaker, I rise in support of S. 24, the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019.  Saturday marks the longest federal government shutdown in history.  It is true that we have been able to get back pay for federal employees who were furloughed or who worked without pay for every shutdown in recent history.  However, Congress has acted not out of the kindness of its heart with respect to workers who worked without pay; we acted because, under the Constitution, specifically the Fifth and Thirteenth Amendments, people cannot be made to work without compensation, particularly if they are federal employees.  That would be a constitutional violation, and Congress knows it, and that is why we provide back pay to those employees who are forced to work during a shutdown without pay.  We must also protect those who were not allowed to work during the shutdown, but, nevertheless, still incurred all their normal living expenses.  We cannot be sure that the necessary appropriations will be forthcoming, especially in a government where one party controls both the Presidency and the Senate.  The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, guaranteeing back pay, is an essential safeguard that federal employees are due.

            At the same time, furloughed federal contract employees, who often preform the same jobs as federal employees, are not being paid.  Therefore, I have introduced a bill that would grant back pay to low-wage federally contracted retail, food, custodial and security service workers who are furloughed during the current and any other federal government shutdown this fiscal year (fiscal year 2019).

            Polls have consistently shown that Americans oppose this shutdown and are anxious for the president and for Congress to get on with the essential tasks of governing.  The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019 will operate as an IOU to federal employees who deserve no less, but, indeed, much more.