Federal employees in Minnesota work, with no future pay in sight

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2013 - 9:24 AM

At work without paychecks, some government employees in Minnesota are feeling the pinch.

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Some of Minnesota’s federal employees have to work during the government shutdown, with no pay in sight. Dan Vechik, front, and Armando Gutierrez are civilian employees during the week and Air Force Reserve technicians one weekend a month and two weeks a year.

Photo: DAVID JOLES • djoles@startribune.com,

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– Less than two weeks into the federal government shutdown, Christopher Campbell, a cook supervisor at the federal prison in Waseca, Minn., has put off paying bills to stock up on groceries for his family of five.

In Mankato, Social Security employee Elizabeth Ratcliff and her husband have halted their home remodeling project in favor of shoring up their savings.

Colin Barrett, a claims examiner in the Veterans Benefits Administration’s St. Paul office, has a busted oven that won’t be repaired until he knows when future paychecks will arrive.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have been furloughed as part of the government shutdown that has gripped the nation for 10 days.

But hundreds of thousands more, like Campbell, Ratcliff and Barrett in Minnesota, continue to dutifully clock in and perform their duties.

They just aren’t getting paid.

“People in Washington keep talking about who’s winning the shutdown,” Campbell said. “I’m not sure if anybody is winning, but I work with a lot of people who are losing.”

The two-week paychecks for many civilian employees on Friday will reflect only the work they did in the last week of September, before the shutdown began, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Not all workers get paid on the same day, but Friday is payday for many of them. That will mean paychecks that are about 40 percent smaller than they should be.

Campbell, who also serves as president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 801, supports a wife, daughter and two grandchildren on his federal paycheck.

Now, he said, many of his members must work and also worry about keeping food on the table, gas in their tanks and staying current on major expenses.

Morale ‘at absolute rock bottom’

“The morale of staff is at absolute rock bottom,” Campbell said. “It feels like we’re being hit doubly hard.”

For most government workers, the shutdown should not lead to permanent loss of income.

The U.S. House approved legislation last weekend to eventually pay furloughed employees for missed days of work, and the U.S. Senate could soon follow suit. By law, the government is obligated to eventually reimburse employees like Campbell for all non-pay workdays during the shutdown.

But until those reimbursement checks arrive, families of federally employed workers are pinching more than pennies.

“I’m hoping for the best but doing my best to prepare for the worst,” said Ratcliff, the Mankato federal employee.

The Ratcliffs figure their savings can keep them going about a month, at most. Beyond that, cable, cellphones and possibly even one of the family vehicles would have to be cut out of the budget to make ends meet. They’ve already warned their three school-age children that money may be tight for awhile.

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