Government Workers Sad at Being Labeled Non-Essential, in Satire and in Real Life

Art imitates life, government shutdown edition



The partial government shutdown that began at midnight means some, but certainly nowhere close to all, government employees were furloughed (or put on paid vacation if, as is likely to happen, Congress decides to award them back pay when it funds the government again), about 800,000 ("non-essential") out of the 2.1 million strong federal workforce. Prior to the shutdown, some federal workers were honest enough to admit their jobs were "non-essential." Now, some federal workers have a sad that they've been labeled non-essential. Via Reuters:

The divide along the "essential" and "non-essential" lines added to the hurt even as the officials started to use the gentler terms of "excepted" and "non-excepted."

"I recognize how hurtful the label 'non-excepted' can be—all those who work at NIH are exceptional!" National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins wrote in a note to his workers on Tuesday, seeking to boost morale as he confirmed that the majority of NIH workers will be furloughed.

One Internal Revenue Service worker said he got an email on Friday saying he was considered an "excepted" employee but later that day, another email said nobody in his division would be considered excepted, based on new legal interpretations.

For those who are told they are essential, "they're psyched," the IRS worker said. "The people who are not essential are thinking about how they can make an argument (that) the people who made the decision missed something, and they're wrong."

Is it funnier as satire? Via the Onion:

Following Tuesday's government shutdown, which furloughed the jobs of all federal employees not considered to perform essential government functions, National Gallery of Art facilities manager Don Henning confirmed to reporters that the last thing he needed at this point in his life was to be called a nonessential employee. "Well, this is just great. I'm already working 60 hours per week in a low-paying job with horrible hours and zero perks, and now I'm officially being told that I could straight up stop going to work at all and it would not 'essentially' change anything," the 49-year-old husband and father told reporters, noting that after more than two decades living basically paycheck to paycheck with no real chance of upward mobility, the one thing missing from his life was a furlough notice from the government informing him that what he does for a living is essential to absolutely nothing.

For the record, by the government's own measure federal workers tend to be paid better than private sector counterparts (for those jobs that qualify to have a private sector counterpart). Because they're not subject to market forces, government jobs may not be essential even when the government deems them so.