Representatives from the Architect of the Capitol, Government Printing Office, Library of Congress and Government Accountability Office said they are prepared to make these decisions if they have to.
Employees who handle the Capitol’s other core functions, such as Capitol Power Plant workers and computer technicians, would likely report to work as well, said Scot Faulkner, who was the House’s Chief Administrative Officer during the 1995 shutdown.
“There’s certain people who would certainly be viewed as key,” Faulkner said. Others are not, he added. “You don’t need to have wastebasket emptiers or carpet vacuumers. Those people can be put on hiatus.”
But much like the junior staffers, these menial workers stand to lose the most. Then there are tour guides and visitor assistants who as of Friday didn’t know whether the Capitol would be open to the public during a shutdown.
They will meet with Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers this week, said Carl Goldman, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 26, which encompasses four unions across the Capitol complex.
“We are going to be hammering through information to get to our members,” Goldman said. “We have many people living from paycheck to paycheck whose families will be severely impacted by a shutdown.”
Bill Blevins, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 121, said his members who work for the Architect of the Capitol would most likely be considered nonessential. As of Friday, he said, the agency has not been forthcoming with information confirming it, though he has requested it.
“I can imagine rent payments being missed, mortgages, car payments,” he said. “You’re talking about people who couldn’t easily miss a paycheck here.”
Today, Librarian James Billington will meet with Saul Schneiderman, president of the Library of Congress union, Schneiderman said. He was working for the Library during the last shutdown and knows the toll isn’t only financial.
“It’s not just the economic anxiety of knowing that we won’t get paid. It’s being away from the work that we do. It’s very, very alienating,” Schneiderman said.
The union is holding emergency meetings to figure out what kind of financial assistance they can offer to workers in need.