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Federal Prison Workers Dismayed By Government Shutdown


Now, while the partial shutdown continues, some federal workers are showing up because they're required to. And we're going to hear now from one of them: Phil Glover, a corrections officer at the Johnstown Federal Prison in southwestern Pennsylvania. He's been in Washington this week lobbying members of Congress for pay for himself and his colleagues. Mr. Glover is also a regional vice president for the Council of Prison Locals union, and he sat down with our colleague David Greene to talk about how his efforts on Capitol Hill have been received so far.

PHIL GLOVER: When you talk to committee staff or people that deal with our funding and they don't seem to know what the final outcome of this is going to be, it is of concern. We hear that they may pay excepted employees, which is what we are under, but we don't know what that means for the other agencies that we interact with.


Now, let's break that down. What is excepted employees? Does that mean essential employees?

GLOVER: Essential, excepted. They use the term excepted in the documents that we've seen. We are the ones that have to go to work every day. Our federal prison employees, for instance, all have to go into the facilities and work with inmates during this time. And as of October 1st, they're not logging paychecks. The next paycheck they will get is next week and they'll get a six-day paycheck for working two full weeks.

GREENE: So they will get a paycheck for working up until October 1st...

GLOVER: Correct.

GREENE: But they have been asked to come to work at the federal prisons, but beginning on October 1st and from then until now, they won't get any money for that work.

GLOVER: Well, they've actually been ordered to come to work in federal prisons, not asked. And so you either come or you could suffer disciplinary actions as a result of not showing up.

GREENE: Let me just, if we can, get into the life of a family or two. Let's get some nuts and bolts. When does the next paycheck come in?

GLOVER: The next paychecks will start coming in electronically next Saturday, over...

GREENE: This coming Saturday.

GLOVER: This coming Saturday. What I was told by the agency is we'll get a six-day paycheck, but all your deductions will come out.

GREENE: So wait, full deductions for two weeks, but only actually getting paid for six days. That's quite a hit. But any numbers you can give me to give me a sense for how this might affect a family?

GLOVER: Well, in my case, I mean, I'll just use me as an example. I take home about $1,295 every two weeks and a six-day paycheck, I think I've figured out is going to be somewhere around $700. And then when my deductions hit, as far as all the different things that come out, your health care and taxes and everything else, I'll probably end up with around $200 left for next week.

GREENE: What choices will that force you to have to make?

GLOVER: Well, obviously, I mean, we'll dip into savings. I'm a long-term employee. I've got 23 years in the Bureau of Prisons. I have a son and a daughter both in school, in college, so we have those expenses like everybody else. And I've been actually watching social media and there's a number of pages that people go on that are federal prison employees and you can see the stress level.

How am I going to pay my bills? What am I going to do for childcare? How do I put fuel in the truck? I mean, I have a pickup truck. I live in southwestern PA. You know, it's $80 to fill that tank. There's a whole range of things and the thing is, you can't just call off. If you call off, you're messing with the person that's on shift right now. He can't go home.

It's a 24/7 operation. We have to make sure we're there for the inmates and for the safety of the community, and so we hope that some cooler heads prevail here.

GREENE: Phil Glover, thanks so much for spending some time with us.

GLOVER: I appreciate it very much, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.