'Instant increase in morale' for Mich. federal workers hit by shutdown

Keith Laing
The Detroit News
Cheryl Monroe, left, of Ecorse, an FDA employee and her sister Sheila Monroe, right, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, a Department of Treasury employee, chant "Call a vote" along with other furloughed workers during an anti-government shutdown rally in downtown Detroit in this Jan. 21, 2019 file photo.

Washington — About 5,700 federal workers in Michigan who have been furloughed or working without pay will start getting paid again, now that a deal has been been reached to temporarily end the partial government shutdown.

As a result of the deal announced by President Donald Trump on Friday to reopen the government until Feb. 15, a dozen federal agencies that haven't been funded during the partial government shutdown that began Dec. 21 — including several with offices in Michigan — will reopen as early as Monday. 

Roughly 420,000 federal workers nationwide have been working without pay since the shutdown began, according to Governing Magazine. Another 380,000 were furloughed.

Mike Redies, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association union's local at Detroit Metro Airport, said he is glad the government is reopening temporarily at least because he has been working without pay since the end of December. Redies said he knows federal workers like him have been guaranteed back pay, but he is not sure how quickly he will receive it if the government reopens as scheduled on Friday evening. 

"This being a Friday, I'm not sure what the agency can do today," he said. "With sequestration, everyone got paid their straight 80 (hours), normal pay, no nights and weekends. I'm reasonably confident we'll get some money early next week."

Redies, who received a pay stub for his Jan. 15 check for an amount of $0.00, said the shutdown was tough for himself and the 40 other employees in the air traffic control tower at Michigan's biggest commercial airport. 

"It was pretty disheartening when both bills failed in the Senate yesterday," he said referring to unsuccessful votes on bills containing both Republican and Democratic priorities related to the government funding fight. 

"I've been hearing a lot of relief from all the people I work with," said Redies. "There's been an instant increase in morale." 

Petty Officer Brian McCrum of the U.S. Coast Guard's public affairs office in Cleveland said Jan. 31 would have been the second missed paycheck for more 3,000 workers in the Coast Guard's 9th district, which covers the five Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway and surrounding states. Michigan has 1,068 active duty Coast Guard members, according to Governing Magazine. 

"We don't have updated guidance," McCrum said in reference to the status of payments for the upcoming paycheck for Coast Guard members on Jan. 31. 

"Nothing's really changed for us until it's official," McCrum said. 

McCrum said he has been told that Coast Guard members will receive back pay for paychecks missed during the shutdown in about three to five business days after the government reopens. 

Other federal employees in Michigan affected by the partial government shutdown include those at the HUD's Detroit Field Office; the Internal Revenue Service's Detroit Office and Computing Center; the Food and Drug Administration's Detroit Laboratory, and the EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

Three of Michigan's national parks remained open during the shutdown. Two others — Keweenaw National Historic Park in Calumet and North Country National Scenic Trail Offices in Lowell — were closed. Isle Royale National Park is closed for the winter, but the Houghton Visitor Center for the park was closed due to the shutdown. 

Michigan's state government said in December it could operate about 45 days before any impact from a loss of federal reimbursements are felt. The partial government shutdown lasted 35 days, meaning Michigan was a week and a half away from having to make cutbacks of its own. 


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Twitter: @Keith_Laing