FORT HOOD (October 7, 2013)-- Most of the civilian workers on Fort Hood who were furloughed as a result of the partial government shutdown returned to work on Monday, but they won’t get paid until the shutdown ends.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Saturday that 350,000 furloughed workers would be recalled this week under an interpretation of a bill signed into law last week that exempts Department of Defense civilian employees from the furlough if they provide direct support to the military.
The Pay Our Military Act was passed and signed into law shortly before the shutdown began last week.
American Federation of Government Employees Vice President Samuel Boles said he took an influx of phone calls from union members who wanted to know if they should return to work Monday after they received calls from their jobs to do so.
"They wanted to know whether it's legal or not because basically you are working on an IOU," he said.
He said the workers’ main concern was whether they were being called back legally.
Boles advised the employees to return to work so that they can get retroactive pay once the shutdown ends.
Among those who received calls to return to work was Simon Ferdin, a Fort Hood public works maintenance mechanic.
"I was ready to go back to work," he said.
He said he is now catching up on the work orders that were put aside during the four days he was off.
"Once I got there it was business as usual and everybody was happy to be there," Ferdin said.
The commissary and garrison civilian workforces were back at 100 percent, and Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center was at 90 percent strength Monday, Boles said.
Others who have yet to hear if and when they can go back to work have asked the union for compensation assistance and inquired if they should file for unemployment.
AFGE members spent their idle week protesting at the front gate of Fort Hood in hopes to put a stop to the shutdown.
Although a large percentage of employees have returned to work, Boles said he still doesn't feel like elected leaders are listening.
"If they were really paying attention to us I believe this government shutdown would be done and over with right now," he said.
"Congress and the Senate need to come together and cut out all this bickering and come up with some kind of deal to get rid of this deficit and reopen the government."
Boles said AFGE members plan to hold their next protest outside the offices of U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.