The Government Shutdown Faces Lawsuits Over ‘Involuntary Servitude’

The Government Shutdown Faces Lawsuits Over ‘Involuntary Servitude’


The government shutdown is now the
longest on record and there’s no end in sight, Democrats won’t budge on providing more than 1.3 billion dollars for President Trump’s border wall. No
president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the
government shuts down. And President Trump won’t consider any proposal from
the Democrats without more wall funding. How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job? Stuck in the middle are thousands of government workers. Been with this government nine years. I think I’ve been through five of these. They’re not fun. I could see my desk from here. DC Can’t get on the same page. Why are we the collateral damage? This is our second time we haven’t got paid. So uh, you know. It really hurt. Thousands of so-called essential
personnel, like air traffic controllers and FBI agents, are working without
regular paychecks. But because most shutdowns and years past have only
lasted for a few days and because they haven’t been as frequent as they are now,
groups of federal employees are mounting legal challenges over working without
regular paychecks. One lawsuit accuses the government of violating the
Thirteenth Amendment. That’s the one that outlaws slavery and involuntary
servitude. In this case, the lawsuit claims that federal workers are being
forced into involuntary servitude by working without regular paychecks. Here’s the attorney behind the lawsuit explaining the case: You know, obviously, our plaintiffs are all federal employees, who were deemed essential who had to report
to work and we’re frustrated with the fact that they were required to work for
no pay at a time when they had financial obligations. I really think that it came
about just as, you know, kind of some of these things do. In conversation, just
bouncing ideas back and forth. And somebody saying, you know, this sounds
just like involuntary servitude. And we said well, you know what, that’s
exactly what it is. And we did the research and, you know, even though
there’s never been a case quite like this. It fits perfectly into the definition. And so we thought we’d bring it to the court and see what
happens. The U.S. is now in uncharted waters when it comes to legal challenges
against the shutdown. Because one has never lasted so long. The recent lawsuit
regarding the Thirteenth Amendment is a really novel challenge that we haven’t
seen before in other federal shutdowns. But now that we’re seeing a longer
period of a shutdown, more novel legal arguments are going to be made. And we’re going to be watching that really closely. And seeing if other arguments are going
to appear in the coming days or weeks. What could also eventually change future
shutdowns is going after a law drafted nearly 150 years ago. It’s called “The
Antideficiency Act.” At the time it was designed to reiterate Congress’s “power
of the purse.” You know, Congress authorizes and appropriates funds and
the executive branch spends and implements those funds. But The
Anti-deficiency Act really wasn’t thought of by Congress in its initial
format as an Employment Law or regulating employment policy. And with
shutdowns becoming more and more frequent. It actually is having a key
role in employment policy when it comes to the federal government. Over time the
law became the de facto employment policy that the federal government uses
to force workers to clock in without knowing when they’ll be paid next. Dickey
argues that the law as it’s practiced under current government shutdowns, contradicts another law called the “Fair Labor Standards Act.” The laws from the 1930’s and it requires the federal government to pay its workers a minimum wage. There are some real clashes between the Antideficiency Act and the Fair
Labor Standards Act when it comes to a shutdown situation. And we’re currently
seeing several class action lawsuits in the federal courts trying to work out
that clash. So as the government shutdown drags on
watch the courts. If any of these challenges succeed, the next shutdown
could play out much differently. But you never see a case in today’s world where people are being forced at the threat of losing their their property to work for free. It just it doesn’t happen in today’s world and it shouldn’t.