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Prison officer suing after working without pay

Justin Tarovisky, a federal correctional officer in West Virginia, is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the US government claiming the government shutdown is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Posted: Jan 9, 2019 9:46 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2019 9:51 AM

One main lesson of government shutdowns is that people who make their living by working for the federal government live not just in Washington, DC, and the states surrounding the nation's capital, but around the country.

That's evident in the Transportation Security Administration workers calling in sick to airports across the country.

CNN has been documenting the stories of federal workers and contractors, many of whom are either furloughed or working without pay, like TSA officer Jessica Caraballo, who had been driving for Uber and thought she got a break -- full-time work with benefits.

But while Caraballo and other federal workers will likely get back pay, that won't help with the bills due now.

Those bills will be coming due nationwide. There are federal workers like Caraballo in every single US state, according to data on Cabinet departments compiled by the Office of Personnel Management.

This is not an exhaustive picture, however, because there are government workers who work for agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA that are independent of other departments and employ more than 10,000 workers each. For simplicity in using OPM's data and to illustrate that federal workers are spread nationwide, the map above shows only employees in affected Cabinet agencies like the Department of Justice or Homeland Security. Adding workers from those other smaller affected agencies would not markedly change that picture.

Another way to consider where the federal workers are is to change the map to show federal workers per 100,000 workers, according to the Department of Labor data. By that measure, the importance of federal workers in large states like California and Texas is lessened, but their importance in smaller states like Montana becomes clear.

Most federal workers at Cabinet agencies make more than the national average income, but they're not rich, according to the OPM data.

Many other Americans also draw their living from the federal government, but not in a full-time capacity. Rather, they are contractors, like Julie Burr, an administrative assistant for the Department of Transportation in Kansas City, Missouri, who worries no back pay may come when the shutdown finally ends. Burr told CNN's Brianna Keilar on Monday she's already depleted her savings more than two weeks into the partial shutdown. She set up a GoFundMe page so friends could help her pay rent this month.

President Donald Trump said he could relate to the problems of people like Caraballo and Burr.

"I can relate, and I'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments, they always do, and they'll make adjustments," Trump said over the weekend. "People understand exactly what's going on. But many of those people that won't be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100% with what I'm doing."

Burr doesn't.

"I find it very hard that a billionaire relate to anyone who lives possibly paycheck to paycheck," she said. "Which many of the American people do, so that's hard to relate to him saying that. I just want to get back to work."

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