Democrats Try to Stop Eviction of Unpaid Federal Workers

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

With landlords preparing eviction notices for unpaid federal workers – and their families – from rental housing and banks scheming to repossess their cars for unpaid loans, Senate Democrats are trying to stop the pain.

The legislation by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, drew support from 24 other Democrats, including Minority Leader Charles Schumer. Two top union leaders who represent federal workers, Tony Reardon of the Treasury Employees (NTEU) and Paul Shearon of the Professional and Technical Employees (IFPTE), strongly support it.

The legislation may not come up for a vote in January, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., allowed two votes on measures to end GOP President Donald Trump’s month-long lockout/shutdown of federal workers and their agencies.

Egged on by right-wing radio talk show hosts, House Republicans and his own staff, Trump shut several Cabinet departments and related agencies at midnight Dec. 21 after agreeing to, and then welshing on, a measure to keep them open through the rest of this fiscal year.

Instead, Trump demanded lawmakers give him $5.7 billion to build a wall on the Mexican border before he’d reopen the government.

Trump sent some 350,000 workers home without pay and forced 450,000 others, including federal fire fighters, airport screeners and IRS workers, to toil without pay since then.

It’s those workers, minus two paychecks now, who are facing eviction, auto repossession, ruined credit and other problems because they have no money to pay bills. These are the workers who Schatz, Schumer and the other Democrats are trying to help.

"Amidst another push to open the government, I am fighting with my colleagues for necessary financial protections for impacted federal workers during this shutdown and for workers of any future shutdown, because no federal public servant should have their financial well-being held hostage by a president unwilling to simply open the government in the middle of a debate," Schumer said. 

"While the president and Senate Republicans struggle to get their act together, real people are suffering,” said Schatz. “Right now, thousands of federal workers and their families are struggling to pay rent and make ends meet. It’s absolutely unacceptable. Our bill will protect federal workers and make sure they aren’t harmed because of a political stunt.”


The Schatz-Schumer bill, the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act, would bar landlords and creditors from taking action against federal workers or contractors hurt by the government shutdown and unable to pay rent or repay loans, a Schatz fact sheet says.

The measure is modeled after legislation that already covers families of military service members. It would also empower federal workers to sue creditors or landlords that violate this protection. One co-sponsor, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said she’ll try to insert it in funding bills coming up for votes.

“People who took an oath to serve their country as federal employees should not have to worry about being evicted, having their car repossessed or going further into debt because of a government shutdown,” said Reardon, whose union represents many of the workers, notably the IRS workers, whom Trump has ordered back on the job to toil without pay.

The measure “would protect the nation’s federal workforce, many of whom are suffering after nearly three weeks without pay. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would give frontline federal workers a reasonable amount of time to catch up on their bills once the shutdown ends and their income is restored. Federal employees around the country are grateful there are members of Congress who are looking out for them in their time of need.”

Shearon’s union, IFPTE, lauded Schumer, Schatz and House Democratic sponsor Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., “for authoring this critically important bill.” His union includes engineers, scientists and – ironically – immigration judges who face an enormous caseload of applicants waiting the enter the U.S. and whose cases can’t get judged because Trump has shut down their agency.

“This legislation will provide much needed relief to federal employees who may be facing civil actions against them due to a lapse in pay that has resulted because of the government shutdown. It is truly unfortunate that President Trump is using these civilian workers and their families as political pawns to achieve a political goal,” Shearon added.

“The real-life ramifications on these working Americans are hard choices between feeding their families, and meeting other financial obligations. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act will provide impacted workers additional time after a shutdown to meet their financial obligations that would otherwise result in actions against them such as eviction, foreclosure and other civil claims.”

But while Schumer, Schatz and Co., come to the aid of the feds, two other large groups of people hurt by the shutdown are, so far, out in the cold, and many not be made whole even when, or if, the government reopens.

One is contract workers – janitors, fast food workers, security guards and their colleagues, many of them represented by the Service Employees. They’re not federal workers, so the Schumer-Schatz bill doesn’t cover them. Nor does legislation Trump signed Jan. 16 saying federal workers would get retroactive back pay. Maryland’s two Democratic senators and Sen. Tina Smith, DFL-Minn., are trying to get pay retroactivity for contract workers, too.

But another large group of people – recipients of federal housing Section 8 vouchers and other aid to low-income people -- also face auto repossession and eviction notices. Landlords are demanding Section 8 renters pay full freight, replacing the federal Housing Department subsidies the landlords usually get.

Otherwise, those poor could be out on the street as early as February.



Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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