Contractors May Never Recover from the Shutdown.
We asked one government contractor about the shutdown and they weighed in:
Contractors are rarely, if ever, given back pay after a shutdown, and this one can’t be blamed on Trump. It’s due to the way that contractors are paid and how funding is allocated (and how the companies that employ contract workers operate).
To make contractors whole, Congress would have to pass legislation that authorized back pay for contractors, and then make sure that companies didn’t just pocket the money. Complications like these are why contractors weren’t given back pay during the 2013 shutdown under Obama, or the ones before.
In Washington state, over 13,000 federal employees worked at agencies damaged by the shutdown. According to one report from Democracy Now!, there are up to 4 million contract workers nationwide who lost out.
Short-term, this left workers struggling to pay rent, buy groceries, and make ends meet. There are reports of federal workers rationing insulin without the benefit of health insurance. That loss in income is going to continue to affect workers for months from now
It’s a huge mess. The full impact won’t be felt for months. The immediate impact on workers who weren’t paid is being felt but the effect goes beyond just the immediate workers. The work itself was impacted and that’s where we’ll see new problems start to show up later on. Plus we might get to go through this all again on February 15th.
Contractors fill roles in everything from science to janitorial services, from the military to the cafeteria. It’s a problem that plagues Republican and Democratic administrations and is the direct result of the increasing use of contracting and outsourcing in government work—a soft privatization that exploded under Bush—that not only makes our government the largest low-wage employer, but perpetuates worker exploitation in our name for the benefit of private corporate profit.
Naturally, the only area where contractors were protected was in the war industry: because imperialism.
Journalists decimated by billionaires. 1 in 10 jobs killed at many newsrooms.
Rent came due this past Friday. For many journalists that came with layoff announcements.
Just a handful of billionaires own most newsrooms, regardless of print, online, or broadcast distribution. And although the rich received a gigantic tax cut last year, they’re never satiated with the profit they have.
VICE Media laid off 10% of staff, Buzzfeed cut 15%, another 7% fell at HuffPost, and hundreds of smaller newsrooms throughout the country like local and regional newspapers and broadcast stations. Cut the muckrakers, and we’re stuck in it without knowing it.
There’s exploitation of the remaining journalists too: increased desperation, pressure to follow the company line, accept worse wages, concede in bargaining, work more overtime, and publish must-run propaganda pieces from billionaire owners (such as Sinclair-run KOMO’s defense of tear gas on migrants in Mexico) because the threat of becoming a permanent freelancer is the media Sword of Damocles.
The world’s on fire. War makes it worse.
Just like the coke-addled Reagan-era Iran-Contra reboot going on in Venezuela, our capitalist overlords are bringing back the other lame parts of the 80s: The threat of thermo-nuclear war because Trump just withdrew from nuclear disarmament treaties! Joy.
Let’s put this war-mongering into a global context. The US military is one of the world’s largest polluters. It’s already pushing us toward the point of no return for CO2 levels as NASA and NOAA confirmed 2018 as the fourth hottest year on record. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is an energy intensive and grotesquely polluting process that has no place in a world we must save. Which makes the military-industrial complex’s opposition to the Green New Deal particularly galling:
Gov. Inslee signs update to I-940 police reform. We can’t stop there.
Gov. Inslee signed an update to voter-initiated I-940 police reform around deadly force. Among its many changes, it removes a subjective “I didn’t intend to murder” test making any justice for the slain more remote. It also expanded language upholding tribal sovereignty and notifying the Governor’s office immediately of any police incursions onto tribal lands.
However, there are good reasons to be skeptical. One section increases the presence of police on independent justice commissions and potentially stacks them in law enforcement’s favor. The modifications to what constitutes an “objective test” adds “information” to “facts, circumstances,” potentially creating situations where outright lies and unconscious bias are considered valid excuses. To wit, anyone on the scene claiming “there’s a gun,” regardless of reality, creates a potential get-of-trouble card. Iosia Faletogo died in similar circumstances.
Police in San Juan County deliberately abused courtroom cameras to spy on jurors and lawyers. In Portland, Sergeants told fellow cops “if you come across a black person, just shoot them.” There’s still a vast, new youth jail under construction while the King County Executive concurrently claims to be abolishing youth imprisonment. We can’t afford to be fooled.
Why are we, the people, asked to defer to power instead of having the ability to abolish prisons and executions by single-officer juries? We shouldn’t limit the fight to just reforms. There’s so much to the injustice system in need of abolition.
Note: The Seattle Hellhole represents the views of its writers and does not represent official positions of Seattle DSA at large. Its writers are a collective working on independent pieces, editing, and design to deliver this each week. If you want to volunteer, join us in #wg_comms_design on Slack or email [email protected]