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Amid Government Shutdown, Federal Prison Employees Set To Miss First Full Paycheck

Ray Coleman
Special to WFSU

Employees of Florida’s federal prisons are asking the state’s members of congress to push for a reversal of the U.S. government shutdown. Workers held a rally in Downtown Tallahassee on Thursday.

Kristan Morgan says as she and many of her coworkers at the Bureau of Prisons were leaving for their holiday break, the robocall came in.

“There was a mass call that let everybody know that there was a lapse in appropriations and leave has been cancelled, you vacation has been cancelled – you need to return to work or face disciplinary action,” Morgan said.

Now Morgan and her colleagues at the Bureau of Prisons have wrapped up their first whole pay period since, and are expecting no payment.

Ray Coleman works in the Bureau, and also heads the local American Federation of Government Employees union.

“This will be our first complete paycheck that we will not receive. So we’ve been having to come to work day in and day out to do our jobs. And we’ve been kind of hoping things will get better, but the reality’s setting in that we’re not going to get a paycheck,” Coleman said. “And working at a federal prison, it’s already a stressful environment.”

Morgan, who is vice president of the union, says Thursday’s rally aimed to get the attention of Florida’s leaders in Washington. 

“We’ve been trying to get the word out to the public that the people we need to complain to are our elected officials,” Morgan said.

Coleman says he has reached out to some Florida congressmen.

“We really need them to at least come sit down and talk to us, come see how it feels, come see what we’re going through,” Coleman said. “Come see how these people you represent are having to deal with the day-to-day struggles of a government shutdown.”

And, though their paychecks have been compromised, Coleman says the expenses haven’t stopped.

“People have day-to-day bills that they have to pay. Healthcare expenses, childcare expenses. I’ve been telling a lot of media outlets that we have people still recovering from the hurricane. So, the morale is down. However, it brings us together as one – as one unit. Because we’re all in the same situation,” Coleman said.

Coleman is one of about 250 employees at the federal prison in Tallahassee.