Are Furloughed Workers Lazy, Unnecessary and Unimportant?

As y’all know, I love our conversations.  I have been surprised, however, by how hostile some have been with regard to the partial Government shutdown and furlough.
On responses at my site and others, a few themes have arisen regarding the furloughed employees that are just not true.  Usually these themes accompany an ad-hominem attack on a previous commenter.
One of my favorite sayings is that we are all entitled to our own opinions, not our own facts.  Here are what I see as two of the most egregious examples of demonstrably false statements–mythology of the furlough–that appear in comments to furlough articles.

Myth # 1:  Furloughed employees are not doing important work.cropped-BlondeSally.Avatar4.jpg
This myth is a pumped-up spin on the old stereotype of the Government employee as a feckless clock-watcher.   You have probably heard it in the form of a comment that reads:  “if the Government does not need them [the furloughed workers] why are we paying them?”
Like that lazy government employee stereotype, assuming people on furlough are not doing necessary work is ignorant, uninformed and just plain wrong. Furloughed employees often have policy and oversight responsibilities; for example, take a look at Federal agency shutdown plans to see who is not in the office this week.  Among the furloughed, you will find contracting officers–the employees who award Federal contracts.

Those employees sign the contracts that support the national economy – lest we forget which entity purchases more goods and services than any other.  Even with the Department of Defense back at work, the economy will presumably suffer with most Government spending on hold.  For sure, many problems the furloughed employees would address will not be addressed as a result of the shutdown. A veritable army of GS-14s and 15s watch over how our money is spent, design safeguards to protect our money, and perform similarly important functions . . . and this army has been idled.  If you know a Federal employee on furlough, try asking him or her what work is not getting done. I bet you’ll be surprised.

Myth # 2:  Furloughed employees are enjoying a vacation.
The furlough is not a vacation.  On every one of our vacations, my husband will generally spend around an hour each day working. He can’t just ignore his duties even when we’re at the beach. He has to get online and address small problems to keep them from becoming big ones; he has to check the pulse of whatever is happening to make sure he can seamlessly transition back to the job he loves when he gets back to the office. And I want to underscore, friends, that he loves his job, which centers on serving the public welfare. His work breaks do not interrupt our vacation (he is the only early riser in our crew and our vacations always include downtime), but we all know he needs to stay on top of what is happening at the office.  And he’s not alone in the dedication he shows to his job. The vast majority of the Federal employees I know work every bit as hard as private sector employees. And in the case of attorneys like my husband, for half the pay.
During the furlough my husband is not checking his e-mail, telephone messages or doing anything else directly related to his work.  I can tell it bothers him.  The Federal employees are not enjoying a vacation. He can’t take care of his duties, and no one else is, either. People depend on him. Businesses depend on him. And he cannot help them. I think it’s driving him slightly crazy. In fact, I know it is, because he’s reorganizing the family library according to the dictates of the Library of Congress Catalog. I know he’s not the only Federal employee who’s worrying about the work he or she should be getting done, but cannot, during the shutdown.

How about it?  Are some of you furloughed Government employees?  If so, I would love to hear what you would be doing if the Government were funded.

Have you heard any other ridiculous statements related to the shutdown?

12 comments on “Are Furloughed Workers Lazy, Unnecessary and Unimportant?
  1. Jen says:

    Well, I work at a federal crime lab where all but the lab director are on furlough. Which means, all forensic work is at a stand still, which means multiple criminal cases are on hold. I was only a week and 1 day in my new job when the furlough hit, transferred from another government agency whose forensic work was transitioned up to PA. It once was a given that government work was a stable gig. Not so much anymore. I for one know, while being at home can be great, knowing what is being left undone at work, coupled with not knowing when we can pay the mortgage this month is NOT. (We are double hit as my hubby is a fed too.) The most ignorant comment to date came from an employee at my son’s school. She seemed flabbergasted that they weren’t taking away our vacation days to make up for the paid (hopefully) time off we are on now. Excuse me, this is not a vacation. This is not my choice. This is not about cutting MY salary and benefits to achieve budget cuts. This is about Congress not doing their job. If this were a vacation, I would be having fun. I would not be sitting at home commenting on articles, cleaning the windows, rugs, walls etc. to keep from going stir crazy and counting my pennies. I would rather be at work thank you. Thanks for the article EL. Keep them coming!

    • Running from Hell with El says:

      Amen Jen–and I totally, totally get what you’re saying. I really hope they get their heads screwed on straight and get you and your husband and my husband back to work ASAP. And man, what a silly remark from the employee at your kid’s school. Grrrr. Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for your service!! ~El

  2. I love that word, feckless. Of course most of the people making the attacks don’t actually know what that means, so it will be lost upon them.

    Here is the problem, most of those furloughed are performing necessary tasks. Tasks we miss when they don’t perform them. The longer they don’t perform them the more we miss them. The other problem? We can’t make up the work they don’t do. Not tomorrow, not the next day. We can’t make up the work nor can we make up the hits to our economy.

    I simply hate this. Excellent, simply another excellent post.

    • Running from Hell with El says:

      Val: LOL! Just like they won’t get it when we scream, “Fie on them all,” LOL! And what I worry about most is the effect all of this has on the contractors and the secondary employers, like restaurant owners, who rely on the federal government. I know I feel silly about all the stuff I’ve said about government over the years. Is it big and ungainly? Yes. Is it necessary? Hell to the yes. Thanks my friend!

  3. Elyse says:

    Great post, El.

    Government is the result of people pooling a little bit of money each to do the necessary things that we can’t do alone. It is vital. If it weren’t there would be many countries without governments. Only ours seems to be controlled by a small group of folks who don’t believe in government. Which means, of course, that they don’t believe in working together. And it shows.

    The difference between “essential” and “non-essential” workers is the difference between ER doctors and all the rest. We still need them all.

    • Running from Hell with El says:

      Thank you so much Elyse! And happy Friday :) I just love how you explained what government does–we pool together (or pull together) and we all help one another. I also dig the concept of how we’re controlled by a few who don’t believe in WE THE PEOPLE, in serving us, or in, like you observed, all of us working together. Honestly–look at me and you and Val, for example. Different beliefs but a ton of mutual respect. We’d get shit done, you know?

      Hell yes–love what you said about docs and ER docs.


  4. I used to be employed by the Government. And worked very, very hard. And yes, we are necessary. In so many areas. Jobs which are taken for granted. Do people think the fairies come out at night and do them? Sigh.
    Ignorance is common the world over.

    • Running from Hell with El says:

      Sue: totally hear you. So many of my friend work for the government and they do work super-hard. These jobs are necessary but they’re really taken for granted. A friend of mine is a contractor who gets necessary supplies out the military–and yet, he was furloughed. So guess who doesn’t get the supplies they need? Yep–the soldier in the field. *Sigh*

  5. I have not understood at all why we furlough employees who work for their paychecks but continue to reward those who drain our economy through food stamps, medicaid and other welfare programs. Whether you believe in welfare or not, shouldn’t we cut the freeloaders before cutting the workers?

Please tell me how you feel!

Buy Signed Copies of El’s Books

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: