Rep. Swalwell Leads Bicameral, Bipartisan Letter Sent Today Requesting Back Pay for Furloughed National Lab Employees

October 11, 2013
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and nine additional Members of the California Congressional Delegation today sent a bipartisan letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz requesting back pay for furloughed DOE national laboratory employees. More than 13,000 government contractors are at risk of being furloughed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park if the government shutdown continues.

“The 7,500 employees at risk of being furloughed at our Livermore labs on October 18 are among the best scientists and researchers in our country, and through no fault of their own they face the possibility of not receiving their paycheck at the end of the month,” said Swalwell. “The irresponsible government shutdown must end, but should it continue I am hopeful Secretary Moniz will assure these hardworking national laboratory employees that they will be treated like other federal employees and receive the back pay they deserve.”

The other signers of the letter are: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Reps. Jeff Denham (CA-10), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Mike Honda (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Jerry McNerney (CA-9), George Miller (CA-11) Scott Peters (CA-52) and Mike Thompson (CA-5).

The full text of the letter is below:

October 11, 2013

Dear Secretary Moniz:

We urge the Department of Energy (DOE) to work with the White House to determine a method by which the operators of DOE national laboratories may, at their discretion, provide their employees back pay once the federal government reopens.

As you know, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) in Livermore, California, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in Berkeley, California, and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) in Menlo Park, California employ thousands of scientists, engineers, and researchers. Their approximately 13,400 total employees are dedicated public servants whose work is critical to our country’s national security infrastructure and scientific research.

Fortunately, despite the shutdown of the federal government, LLNL, SNL, LBNL, and SLAC so far have been able to continue normal operations. However, should the shutdown continue, furloughs of virtually all of their employees will be required. Only a small contingent of essential employees to secure these facilities and respond to national emergencies would remain.

Lab employees have expressed their concerns about the uncertainty they face and the economic hardship which would be caused by furloughs. Their mortgage payments, car payments, and other monthly bills will continue even though they will not be receiving a paycheck. Putting lab employees through this economic difficulty is neither right nor necessary.

Although H.R. 3223, the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, recently passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 407-0 and is pending in the Senate, this bill to provide back pay to furloughed federal employees will not assure back pay for lab employees. The workforce at our national labs is not directly employed by the federal government.

DOE has treated lab employees just like their federal counterparts in the past. For example, when Secretary Steven Chu instituted a DOE wide pay freeze, lab employees were included along with federal workers. If federal employees are provided pay for when they are furloughed, as they should be, we believe national labs should have the ability to extend back pay to lab employees.

We ask that DOE work with the White House and the lab contractors to develop a means by which DOE national laboratories may compensate their employees during furloughs caused by a shutdown. This is the least we can do for people who do so much for our country on a daily basis and unfairly are being subjected to this uncertainty.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Dianne Feinstein

United States Senator


Eric Swalwell

Member of Congress


Zoe Lofgren

Member of Congress


Anna G. Eshoo

Member of Congress


Scott H. Peters

Member of Congress


Barbara Lee

Member of Congress


Jeff Denham

Member of Congress


Mike Honda

Member of Congress


Jerry McNerney

Member of Congress


George Miller

Member of Congress


Mike Thompson

Member of Congress