OAKDALE, LA (KPLC) - Some union leaders with the federal prison in Oakdale are saying that their members are suffering hardship and stress during the government shutdown.
While some federal employees are furloughed during the partial government shutdown, many at these facilities are considered essential and must work without pay.
The American Federation of Government Employees represents 700,000 federal workers including 33,000 who work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Four union leaders gathered in Oakdale to share their personal situations and the plight of members, especially for single-income families.
“We have at times held up to 4,000 inmates and we keep and average of 650 to 700 staff,” Brian Richmond, a correctional officer at the Federal Prison complex in Pollock said.
Richmond said that working without pay is not right.
“I am a federal law enforcement officer, and we have all worked throughout this and we are not getting paid and there is nothing American about that,” Richmond said.
Richmond is also president of his union, Local 1034, and said the situation is affecting families.
“Stop using me and my family. Use some other means to get what you need for America," Richmond said. “I think they forgot about the internal security of the United States of America. You’re not paying the FBI. You’re not paying the people that are locked up.”
As the shutdown continues, some federal employees say their financial situations are becoming dire.
“The effect for me is to see my coworkers who are struggling, and worried about when their next check is coming; where the food will come from,” Leann Mezzacapo, President of AFGE Local 2038 said.
“We are going to have more and more staff who aren’t going to be able to travel to do their job daily because they’re not going to have the funds to do it,” Mezzacapo said.
Union officials, like Ronald Morris, said their people are hurting.
“My members are contacting us with just hardships of making everyday living decisions, child care, grocery bills," Morris said.
Another issue, according to Corey Trammel, President of AFGE Local 3957, is fuel.
“How are they supposed to afford gas to get to work when they’re not getting paid?" Trammel asked.
Weighing the most heavily on their minds is the uncertainty of what is to come.
“Do I pay my mortgage or do I feed my family?”
The union leaders also believe public safety could be at risk.
“Even before the shutdown, we had a hiring freeze. We were already short of staff.”
They’re urging lawmakers to achieve a fast and fair solution.