Nonessential Employees

As the government shutdown continues the news media focuses a great deal on those workers who have been laid off without pay and those who are required to work during the shutdown without pay. The number of such employees, according to some sources, are over 800,000 people. I don’t know why some employees have been designated nonessential and unable to be paid for working. Is the Coast Guard nonessential? Are TSA workers nonessential?

Unfortunately, these people are being used as political pawns in this shutdown. Forget for a moment about what you think about the reasons for the shutdown. Let’s just focus on how these nonessential employees are being used.

While the media and the Democrat party focuses a great deal on the plight of these workers, what is being done to change their situation? The Democrats have voted down two proposals to pay these workers during the shutdown. While these workers are guaranteed to receive back pay for the money they didn’t receive during the shut-down, the Republicans have presented two bills that would pay them now which has failed due to not receiving Democratic support. This tells me that the Democrats are not that interested in whatever pain these workers might be feeling but are only interested in using them as leverage to defeat the President. This may sound like a political statement, but in fact it is just the truth. These workers could have been paid if the Democrats had not defeated the proposal to do so.

I empathize with these workers. During my 30 years of working in a factory I was laid off twice, and our union voted to strike once. It’s a bad feeling knowing there’s not a paycheck coming in while the bills keep stacking up. When the mortgage company begins calling wanting payment the bad feeling turns into something worse.

However, there were some differences between my situation then and their situation now. I would not be receiving back pay for the time I was off work. Those paychecks were lost forever; they will get their money once they return to work. Another difference was that the national media was not calling attention to my situation every night at 6:30 and 11:00. No one cared. Those of us who worked for this company had made the decision to do so, and if we lost our jobs that was too bad. A third difference was that I didn’t sit around waiting to be called back but went out and found a job as quickly as I could. The time when the mortgage company called was due to the fact that it took longer to find work that time than the others, but I found always found a job to bring in an income to provide for my family.

From the news reports it sounds like these workers live paycheck to paycheck. They missed a payroll or two and their lives fell apart. I doubt that is true for the majority, but it makes for great media reports. For those for whom it is true I have some advice. Quit living above your income. If you are spending every dime you make you are living above your means. Get on some type of financial plan to get out of debt and stay out. You’re considered a nonessential employee which means that every time there is a problem between the President and Congress you stand the chance of being out of work for awhile. How many times does it have to happen before you realize that there is no guarantee you are not going to get a paycheck every pay period? Prepare for that because it is likely to happen again.

The same is true for everyone, not just government workers. There are no guarantees that your employer will always have a job for you or that your company will always exist. Many American families are living far above their means. They have believed the lie that they cannot be happy unless they go into debt to buy cars they cannot afford and other non-necessities they don’t need. Many live each month in fear their creditors will begin calling demanding payment.

It’s been said for several years now that there is no such thing as job security. Maybe it’s time we began believing that and taking steps to protect ourselves and our families from the possibility that our jobs could go away. Maybe it’s time that we begin living more responsible lives financially so that our lives won’t be turned upside down in the case that we do lose our jobs. Maybe we should begin believing we are all nonessential employees…because we are.

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