Steve: People Impacted by Trump's Government Lockout
30 year EPA employee is not just concerned about the environment but how his young co-workers are going to financially survive
Yesterday we reported on a TSA agent who was required to go to work during the shutdown, even though he wasn’t getting paid. Today we spoke to Steve Calder, who works for the EPA in Boston and has been furloughed since the beginning of the year.
Q. What do you do?
I work for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) located in Boston and we have EPA laboratories throughout Massachusetts.
Q. Friday is judgment day in a way, what is your local doing to bring attention to the fact that your members are not getting paid?
We are having a rally on Friday, January 11th at Noon at Post office square which is right across from EPA offices in Downtown Boston. We have had a few rallies when funding for EPA was in question in the past so this is becoming a common thing for us.
Q. Do you expect a lot of people?
Hard to say, we are trying to get other AFGE and AFL-CIO unions but it’s hard to get people from suburbs to come in, it’s difficult to get our members to come in from the suburbs when they haven’t been paid and don’t know when their next paycheck is going to come.
I am a 30 year employee of the EPA and this is the worst shutdown in my lifetime
Q. You aren’t getting paid Friday, how are you doing?
We closed down last Monday (last day of December), so we should get at least something this week but we aren’t sure and this will come to an end soon.
I have a mortgage, I’m later in my career so it’s not as bad for me as it is for the young people who have the mortgages, children, student loans or kids in college. This puts them in a tough position. They may be able to apply for unemployment, although some states may not provide it, we have members in New Hampshire and Rhode Island and we are unsure if those states will provide unemployment checks like Massachusetts does. This creates a lot of unknowns and uncertainty. Plus, this money has to be paid back. If you are older, you can take out a loan from the retirement fund, but if I take a loan out they will send a quarterly bill that I have to pay back. It doesn’t matter if the shutdown is over, I still have to pay it back. Plus, the IRS considers this income and will tax you. If you are under 59.5 years old, you pay a 10% penalty if you are unable to make the payments.
Q. Are some of your younger members scared?
I get emails every day, asking does my federal health insurance continue? (It does) Are we going to get paid for the work we did up to the shutdown? (We should, but we also might not until after the shutdown) It seems like young people are sending me more emails about pay.
Q. How long have you been with the EPA?
I have been with the EPA for 30 years.
Q. Is this the worst shutdown?
I believe so, back in 2013 we had a 16-day shutdown and we have already matched that.
Q. Are you personally upset and disappointed at Trump?
Yes, I try not to make this a partisan issue, I think the legislature and Trump need to solve this quickly.
Q. Is a wall that important to you?
Not at all. You hear in the media that federal employees want this, but that isn’t true. He only talks to the people who will tell him that. People like the border patrol. The majority of federal employees don’t care about the wall. What also doesn’t get calculated is the impact that the shutdown has on non-federal employees. The local economies, the small companies that rely on federal employees like the coffee shop near our office. Estimates said that the last shutdown cost $24 billion over 16 days. This lasting even longer is going to have a huge impact on the economy,
Q. What do Trump supporters in your family or friends say about the shutdown?
They say we hope you go back to work shortly, but don’t get into the politics. They know better.
Q. Do you have coworkers who voted for Trump?
Most are too proud to admit they made a mistake, but we are also a liberal agency so we don’t have many conservatives. Those we do have though are often too proud to admit that their vote is hurting them.
I also want to point out that with most of our employees are out on furloughs, 1200 inspections are not going to happen. These inspections are at hazardous waste sites, water treatment plants, things that concern public safety. The sad thing is because we are missing them now, they will never be done. We simply don’t have enough resources to get caught up once the shutdown ends. There is harm to the environment and public health from this shutdown.