OXFORD — Tim Viegut bristles when he hears people quip that it would suit them fine if the federal government was shut down for good.
To Viegut, president of Local 3495 of the American Federation of Government Employees at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford in Adams County, the shutdown means about 235 people at his workplace have to show up for work, and aren’t getting paid.
“Families shouldn’t have to worry about affording groceries and day care,” Viegut said. “Without money coming in, it gets kind of rough.”
Monday was day 24 of the partial shutdown, which President Donald Trump blames on Congress’ refusal to appropriate money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Monday also was supposed to be payday for those who work at the medium-security institution in Oxford, which houses about 800 inmates — including, for 12 days recently, Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
According to Viegut, about five of the prison’s employees whose salaries are paid from sources other than the federal coffers got a paycheck Monday. Everybody else went without.
Viegut is a correctional officer, though most of his work focuses on union matters, he said. About 130 Oxford institution workers are in the union’s bargaining unit, but Viegut said the union is going to bat for all the workers who have been required to show up for work without getting paid as long as part of the federal government remains unfunded and shuttered.
Viegut said if another payday comes and goes with the government still shut down, he might not be able to afford fuel to drive an hour and 15 minutes from his home in Omro to work.
Other Oxford prison employees are in similar straits.
Russ Kaminsky of Windsor said his income is the only one his household has, and losing it means he might have difficulty affording things like mortgage payments and medication.
“My creditors do not care if I am getting paid or not or that the government is shut down,” he said, in a news release issued by Viegut.
Not only are Oxford workers required to show up for their jobs, Viegut said, many of them also have to work overtime, without pay of any kind, much less overtime compensation.
And a part-time job during the shutdown is not an option, because workers are required to show up for the job for which they’re not getting paid.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill assuring back pay for federal workers after the shutdown is over.
One of seven Congress members who voted against the bill was Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, whose district includes Marquette and Columbia counties.
On his congressional website, Grothman issued a statement saying he co-sponsored a bill, labeled the No Work Without Pay Act, which he said was intended to ensure that workers like those at Oxford, who are required to show up for work during the shutdown, would get immediate pay, while those who were furloughed and told not to show up for work during the shutdown would not.
“If Congress really intends to pay people whether they work or not, they should simply work,” Grothman posted on his website.
Viegut said Grothman called him last weekend for input — and got it.
The bill, as written, would exclude workers, including some at Oxford, who had earned sick leave, and who had arranged to use that sick leave for medical procedures scheduled months before the shutdown was contemplated, Viegut said.
According to Viegut, Grothman offered to revise the bill to include employees in that situation.
But that’s not enough, Viegut said. No federal worker, including the ones who were furloughed, wanted to be relieved of duties during the shutdown, and they should all get back pay, he said.