Correctional officers are reporting to work at the federal prison in Mendota but are suffering financial hardships in the government shutdown, the president of the local prison employees union said Wednesday.
“You’ve got staff putting their life on the line and not getting paid,” said Aaron McGlothin, president of the Local 1237 of the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals.
The shutdown began Dec. 22, but prison employees are exempt and must report to work.
If the shutdown continues, many prison employees won’t be able to pay their rent on time or make their monthly house payments, McGlothin said.
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“We have people living paycheck to paycheck. We have single parents,” he said. “They can’t pay their rent, pay their grocery bill, put food on the table.”
Having enough money for gas to drive to work is becoming an issue for some, McGlothin added.
The shutdown is the result of a showdown between President Donald Trump and Congress, especially Democrats, over funding for a proposed border wall with Mexico.
McGlothin said the last government shutdown in 2013 lasted 16 days. At that time, there was a sense that progress was being made in getting the shutdown ended quickly, but that’s not the case this time, he said.
He said he is optimistic that employees will eventually be paid, but there are no guarantees.
“We’ve never dealt with an administration like this,” he said. “In years past, we have been made whole, but the administration is not for the working person. … We’re pawns in the game.”
Morale is being affected, he said.
The Office of Personnel Management put out guidelines for federal employees that included suggestions such as bartering with the landlord to do odd jobs in lieu of rent.
“That really upset a lot of people,” McGlothin said.
Federal Correctional Institution Mendota includes a medium security prison and a camp housing 883 inmates. The prison employs about 240 people, including about 90 correctional officers.
Last year, the prison was the subject of a Bee news story because of mold in the subfloor of the correctional officers’ working area. The Bureau of Prisons has said the mold is gone, but McGlothin said water intrusion under the floor still occurs when it rains.