Ohio Senator pushing shutdown back pay bill

In a conference call interview on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, announced that he will be sponsoring legislation with Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., that will guarantee back pay for contracted federal employees.

Brown said the bill would apply to 6,569 federally contracted employees in the state after the government shutdown is over. Federal employees who are currently furloughed will already receive their back pay, he said.

The senator went on to say that those contracted by the federal government in the state include people on the lower end of the pay scale.

“Non-union workers get around $10 to $12 an hour, union workers get $12 to $16 dollars an hour,” he said.

Brown said a lot of people might not think missing a paycheck would be that big of a deal, but for the hourly contract worker, it could be a make-or-break situation. Brown said the president’s idea of furloughed employees working with landlords and creditors during the shutdown to receive a break on payments isn’t feasible.

“You can’t buy groceries or put gas in the car with an I.O.U.,” he said. “I’d ask the president to think about the workers that you never do think about.”

Brown said that the contracted workers were never thought of in previous shutdowns, but he wanted to change it this time around.

Brown spoke of meeting with TSA workers in Cleveland on Tuesday and that some workers who will be more affected than others.

“There are nine married couples in Cleveland who work for the TSA,” he said.

Brown said that those families will be losing paychecks from both adults, depleting their entire income.

“(President Trump’s) not aware of people like them,” he said. “You’d think he’d have some empathy.”

Paul Greenberg, a contract worker at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and the executive vice president of the International Federation of Technical and Professional Engineers, Local 28, said current working conditions for contractors isn’t conducive to success.

“The environment for federal employees is very dire,” he said. “Morale really does matter.”

Greenberg said the real crisis in the argument over the border wall is the lives affected by the shutdown being used as political leverage.

“We are opposed to being used as a bargaining chip,” he said.

Brown said he doesn’t have a timetable as to when the shutdown will end, but he sees the tides turning on the other side of the aisle.

“Every few days, every few hours, more Republicans decide that the government needs to be open,” he said.

An attempt to discuss the proposed legislation was made to both U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio. No response by either was given Wednesday.

By the numbers

•Number of federally contracted workers in Ohio: 6,569.

•Average pay for those workers: $10 to $16 per hour.

•Total number of furloughed federal workers due to shutdown: about 800,000.

•Number of days of government shutdown: 20.

Source: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Marietta Times research.