The Trump shutdown is officially the longest government shutdown in history. Though the federal employees who continue to work without pay are due to be compensated with back pay once the government reopens, some—like the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA)—say that back pay will be too little, too late.
As a result, NATCA has filed a suit against the federal government for the unlawful deprivation of wages from the 22,790 air traffic controllers the union represents.
The suit insists that back pay will not be enough to cover the losses incurred by the controllers, who have struggled to pay medical bills and at least one controller had to miss her grandmother’s funeral due to going weeks without pay.
NATCA isn’t the only group suing the government. One lawsuit is even invoking the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in 1865. The plaintiffs of that suit include workers from the Department of Agriculture, of Justice, and of Transportation as well as one air traffic controller.
Because refusal to show up for work during the shutdown despite the lack of pay could result in the loss of their positions altogether, the suit alleges that the federal government is guilty of a form of ‘coercion’ — or forced work — that was prohibited by the 13th Amendment.
The attorney representing the plaintiffs, Michael Kator, told The Washington Post:
“Our plaintiffs find themselves in the exact same boat as virtually every other furloughed federal employee: bills to pay and no income to pay them. As this drags on, their situation will become more and more dire…If this is not resolved soon, affected employees may find that beginning February 1 they will no longer have health insurance, and, if this lasts ‘months or even years’ as the President has suggested, there will be defaults, foreclosures and even bankruptcies. A promise to pay back pay will not forestall those consequences.”
Twitter is standing with the workers.
totally agree with them.
— Data Creationist (@bistromath2013) January 11, 2019
Every government association that the shutdown is effecting should follow this
— Tidysome (@tidysome) January 11, 2019
Good! Kick his ass!
— ResistCO (@resist_co) January 11, 2019
I agree with them, work without pay is SLAVERY. Abraham Lincoln worked hard on his family farm. His Dad, Thomas, would hire him out to work for neighbors, then take all the money Abe earned.Years later Abe told his best friend Joshua Speed, that was when he turned against slavery
— Brian Keith O'Hara (@bkohatl) January 11, 2019
They’re also pointing out how the multiple lawsuits appear to contradict an earlier claim from President Donald Trump.