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Workers, Prison Safety Compromised in Shutdown

Employees at the federal prison in Tallahassee and other facilities around the state are working without paychecks. (Ichigo121212/Pixabay)
Employees at the federal prison in Tallahassee and other facilities around the state are working without paychecks. (Ichigo121212/Pixabay)
January 14, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As federal employees go into their second pay period without a paycheck, desperation to make ends meet could pose serious risks for workers in the federal prison system.

With no end in sight for the shutdown, workers, including those who commute from out-of-state for jobs at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, are worried.

Ray Coleman, a corrections officer at the prison and president of the American Federation of Government Employees' union local, says some people serving time will use anything to their advantage, including overly stressed employees.

"They'll test you,” he states. “They'll definitely try to see what they can get away with, see what they can get over on, see if they can compromise a staff member, because they know you aren't getting paid. And when that happens, you know, then you have a problem. "

Hundreds of thousands of workers are stranded without pay as President Donald Trump demands funding for his long-promised wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The Florida AFL-CIO and other labor groups are organizing a series of rallies and events around the state, urging the president and Congress to reopen the government.

Coleman says although they aren't getting paid, he and many others are still required to be at work or risk disciplinary actions.

He's especially concerned about colleagues who drive to Tallahassee from Alabama, who might not be able to pay for gas.

Coleman warns if the shutdown continues, pretty soon workers will stop showing up, and look for jobs elsewhere.

"A federal worker probably can make it, you know two to three months at max, if that, before they are probably going to throw in the towel, you know,” he states. “And that's on the bright side."

The Florida AFL-CIO estimates there are between 10,000 and 30,000 federal workers statewide who have not been paid, including TSA agents at airports.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL