The shutdown may be over, but not everyone is jumping for joy. The leader of Fort Drum's largest union says the civilian employees he represents aren't even close to being out of the woods. He spoke with our Brian Dwyer to talk about the problems that still lie ahead.
WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- At least for now, the government shutdown is over. But don't expect the head of the union that covers Fort Drum's civilian workforce to be all smiles.
"It's definitely difficult for me to get excited about," AFGE Local 400 President Jeff Zuhlke said. "That's been a black cloud over federal employees for a long time now."
Zuhlke says the federal workforce has gone three years with its pay frozen, there's been the summer administrative furlough, the shutdown furlough and because the solution is temporary, the law that made sure military members and civilian workers got paid though this, the Pay Our Military Act, expired.
"We could be right back in the same boat on January 15th when the appropriations run out. In order for our military, our civilians and our contractors that service them to get paid, they'd have to re-introduce the POMA and run it through the entire process," Zuhlke said.
Then, of course, the word that's kind of gotten lost in this shuffle, sequestration. That's the automatic budget cuts that happen because a permanent spending deal hasn't been reached. It could likely mean a reduction in force.
"Hopefully that doesn't bear fruit for Fort Drum. We're relatively well positioned in terms of man power for civilian folks on Fort Drum, but again, that black cloud," Zuhlke said. "The question mark is out there."
Zuhlke says federal employees have gone through enough.
"I've had people in my office crying," Zuhlke said. "Literally crying, wondering what they're going to do about rent and so forth."
And having seen that, Zuhlke knows it can get just as bad or even worse in January. His office is now starting to collect food pantry items to keep on hand should any employees need them.
Zuhlke says the union has no choice but to be prepared for another shutdown furlough in January and an administrative one next summer.