The Trump administration announced Tuesday it was recalling nearly 50,000 furloughed federal workers and putting them back on the job without pay to fulfill critical government functions as the government shutdown stretches into its fourth week with no end in sight. Those workers will join the 420,000 federal employees that have already been classified as essential and are working without pay. The recalls have functionally kept large swaths of the government open, but the Trump administration has simply shifted the burden of responsibility to the individual workers who are being compelled to work without getting paid.
There are 800,000 federal workers overall who have been furloughed and are not getting paid during the shutdown. The recalled workers are being required to process tax refunds and fill food inspection roles, among other regulatory roles. “The efforts in recent days illustrate how President Donald Trump is trying to limit the impact of the partial government shutdown and shield favored industries as the funding impasse thwarts the deployment of new aircraft, stock offerings and even craft beers,” Bloomberg reports. “Critics say the Trump administration is skirting federal law by continuing some functions amid the political stalemate… A 149-year-old law bars agencies from spending money Congress hasn’t given to them, with only limited exceptions for “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”
A host of unions representing different groups of affected federal workers, including the air traffic controllers and the National Treasury Employees Union, have tried suing the government for forcing their workers to stay on the job without pay, but the courts have so far rejected the arguments.