Skimming one of the numerous articles in the news media this week about the federal government shutdown, one number jumped out at me: $23,000. That’s the amount that an entry level TSA worker makes. This year, even Terra Firma’s lowest paid employee will make more than that.*
In California, the minimum wage went up by one dollar per hour on January 1st of this year. That represented an increase of 9% from 2018, step 2 in our state’s mandated plan to raise the minimum wage to $15.
Most people working at Terra Firma work more than 40 hours a week on average over a year.
You could have an interesting discussion about whether doing airport security checks is more important to our nation than growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables. But an economist would point out that our society has put the same monetary value on both tasks.
Yet imagine the headlines if our farm was found to have been requiring employees to appear for work without pay. Investigators from the state and federal labor agencies would have seized our payroll records and frozen our bank account. We would almost certainly have been charged with felony wage theft and slavery.
No private employer is legally allowed to require its employees to attend work, nor to fail to pay them within 5 days of the end of a clearly defined pay period. And yet the federal government, which sets the rules for employers nationwide, is doing both with TSA agents.
Inasmuch as employees of the federal government have “employers”, they are the elected officials running the government. I personally find it outrageous these officials are not required by law to provide for continued funding of the most important government functions despite disagreements about the details. That is their job.
If there are federal employees mandated to come to work who aren’t being paid, then every elected official from President down to Congress should go unpaid too. They should also incur hefty fines. Penalties should be similar to those incurred by taxpayers who owe money to the IRS, with ratcheting amounts accompanied by interest. Pass those laws and I doubt you would ever see another government shutdown.
If you strip the politics away from the current government shutdown, it boils down to a simple difference of opinion. As a businessperson, I am not allowed to use my political opinions as a justification for not paying my employees. Elected officials should not be allowed to do so either. And the idea that these same politicians are making rules governing my business strikes me as utter and complete hypocrisy.
* If the federal government has to follow California min. wage laws for its employees here, then entry-level TSA and TFF workers make the same amount.