This challenge is issued to all of my friends and colleagues regardless of your political inclinations–no matter who or what you blame for the shutdown.
Steve and I have personal friends that are directly impacted by the government shutdown. They are having to show up for work every day but are not getting paid. Many of you have friends in this situation.
We believe in the dignity of work. We believe that when a person gives a hard day’s work they are to be paid appropriately in a timely fashion. We believe employers are always to meet their responsibilities to their employees. This is honest. This is decent.
We know many of these workers will eventually get paid. But most American families live from paycheck to paycheck. Missing a paycheck means bills don’t get paid, responsibilities can not be met. Eventually families struggle to cover the basics: food and a place to live for the children, the parents, the people struggling to make ends meet.
What I Didn’t Know
People who are contracted government workers will never get paid even though they are expected to show up and work. Examples of contracted government workers are often the building custodians, security guards, cafeteria workers, etc.
Yes, those who work for the Coast Guard, the National Park Service, the TSA, etc. will eventually get their backpay after the damage is done to them. But contracted workers will get nothing. Nothing!
This is all completely wrong.
Donate to these workers. Make whatever donations you can. We have chosen to give grocery store gift cards. Families need food. Children need to eat. Feeding those in duress meets a universal, basic need. Feeding people helps them prioritize their spending on other necessities like the rent or the mortgage.
Contact local civic organizations about setting up emergency relief efforts. Ask your local public school what it is doing to collect needed resources for those not getting paid. Get your church involved in supporting those affected by the government shutdown.
More Difficult than You Might Think
You will probably not want to do what I tried to do. I showed up at the Coast Guard station at the entrance to the Golden Gate in San Francisco. I’ve seen these men and women collect the remains of those who have jumped from the bridge. I’ve seen them perform successful rescue operations on the treacherous Pacific Ocean coastline. I’ve toured their boats. I’ve even heard them present about the many facets of their job and the endless and demanding training they perfect to be at the top of their game.1 I’ve often seen them heading out to sea to tackle an unknown challenge. These men and women work unbelievably hard! Their work is physical, technical, dangerous, and just plain hard.
I showed up with a grocery store gift card. I planned to give it to the commanding officer and let him decide how best to use it. Well, that didn’t work.
I didn’t stop to think it through: the Coast Guard can not accept direct donations. However, the Coast Guard Spouse’s Association, a non-profit to address the needs of active Coast Guard members can. So do a little research before you just show up. Find organizations that contribute the donations to the group you wish to gift. Or, perhaps, just slip some cash to a friend who needs it without their ever knowing.
Things are getting serious for people. One of our friends has had to start searching for another permanent job–one he can count on just as his job counts on him. The shutdown is going to create a shortage of workers in these jobs longterm. Who wants a job that they have to show up for without being paid? Nobody!
Finally: Demand Government Reform
This is wrong. I personally think it is immoral. But rather than rant about it2 , we’ve chosen to do something tangible–something positive. Our efforts also include demanding reform to make using the lives of hard-working American citizens as political pawns illegal, a criminal offense.