Native American Union Sues Federal Government

Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - 4:33pm
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A group of federal employees that serve tribal programs is suing the federal government because they are working without pay during the partial shutdown. 

The Albuquerque-based Federation of Indian Service Employees filed suit on Jan. 15 under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The union represents thousands of people who work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other Native American programs. They seek pay plus damages, basically double wages, for employees forced to work without pay. 

Union President Sue Parton said Indian Country employees, who often work in remote areas, are more heavily burdened than others.

“I hear over and over, ‘I can’t sleep,’” Parton said. “‘What am I going to spend money on? Do I spend it on food? Do I spend it on gas? Do I spend it on my rent? My car payment? What about these bills? What about interest rates?’ All of this is taking a toll on our employees.”

The federal government has until March 15 to file an answer. That could be delayed because of the partial shutdown. In the meantime, the union is offering its workers an interest-free loan.

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