Swalwell, Eshoo, Lee, Lofgren Urge Back Pay for Furloughed National Laboratory Employees

October 10, 2013
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) today announced he will be sending a letter urging Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz to work with the White House to allow DOE national laboratories to provide their employees back pay once the federal government reopens. More than 13,000 national lab employees in the Bay Area, who are government contractors, are at risk of being furloughed if the shutdown continues. The House of Representatives has already taken action to provide back pay to federal workers who are furloughed due to the unnecessary shutdown.

Reps. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) have already signed-on to the letter, and it will be open to other Members of the California Congressional Delegation to join.

Rep. Swalwell represents Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore. If the government shutdown continues, 7,500 government contractors at these labs will be furloughed without pay beginning October 18.

“National lab employees in Livermore should not have to suffer because of a shutdown caused by the Tea Party,” said Swalwell. “Lab employees are dedicated public servants who are supporting our country’s national and energy security, and just because their paychecks stop doesn’t mean their bills won’t keep coming. At my town hall last week many lab employees expressed to me their anxiety about keeping up with their mortgage payment or child’s tuition once the furlough begins. Our hardworking lab employees at the very least deserve to be reassured that they will be paid once the current crisis is resolved.”

Rep. Eshoo represents SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park where 1,500 employees are at risk of being furloughed.

“The government shutdown has put over 1,500 SLAC employees at risk of being furloughed. They are our nation’s premier scientists and engineers who daily are engaged in cutting-edge research that is changing the world,” Eshoo said. “To add insult to injury these employees are not entitled to back pay if they’re furloughed because they are employees of an operator of a federal facility, not the federal government. “I urge Secretary Moniz to authorize Department of Energy funds for furloughed national lab employees to ensure that our nation’s brightest receive their pay, and that labs like SLAC can continue to recruit and retain the best minds in the world.”

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is located in Rep. Barbara Lee’s congressional district.

“Congress has moved to provide back pay to hundreds of thousands of federal employees across the country who continue to suffer furloughs due to the unnecessary Republican shutdown of the government,” said Lee. “The scientists, technicians, and workers at our national labs make enormous contributions to this nation, and they deserve to be paid for their work. I hope that Secretary Moniz will heed our request and provide my constituents who work for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory their full wages.”

Rep. Lofgren has been a long-time supporter of national laboratories and the fusion research being conducted at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"We take pride in the cutting edge advancements in our scientific research, but budget cuts and now a government shutdown are threatening these important undertakings," said Lofgren. "It's irresponsible political gamesmanship for Republicans to continue to refuse to put a clean funding bill before the House for a vote. If they did, it would pass, ending the harm that is being done to furloughed workers like these scientists and the vital research they are engaged in."

The letter to be sent to Secretary Moniz is below:

The Honorable Ernest Moniz

Secretary

United States Department of Energy

1000 Independence Ave, SW

Washington, DC 20585

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.  

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