Local prison employees continue to work without pay during shutdown

The partial government shutdown is closing in on the two-week mark with no end in sight. That is discouraging news for the thousands of federal workers who are working without a paycheck.

"A lot of the citizens of the United States are looking to see, 'Well, who's gonna win or lose,' but there is one entity in this that people forget that loses either way, and that's us," said Joseph Mayle.

Mayle is a corrections officer at the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution in Columbiana County. Megan Fitzsimmons is a GED teacher at the facility.

Both of their financial futures are uncertain. They have no idea when they might receive their next paycheck.

"We're still working, there's no shutdown there. It's just the government's choosing not to pay us," Fitzsimmons said.

Although they are not getting paid during the shutdown, both are considered essential employees and must continue to report to work. They are also officers in the local federal employee union. Megan is secretary, Joe is president.

"There are employees that I represent that are working anywhere between 8, 10,12 to 16 hours a day. They're living paycheck to paycheck like everyone else," Mayle said.

"My daughter has a birthday party coming up next weekend and I don't want to go buy a bunch of decorations, which sounds like a small thing, but I don't want to risk not having enough money to pay for things that are more essential than that," Fitzsimmons said.

Megan's husband also works at the prison. She said if the shutdown lasts much longer, they may have to delay paying some bills.

They all say they love and appreciate their jobs, but they need to take care of their families too.

"I can still get disciplined for not showing up, I still have to report to work, I'm essential staff, but you know they don't have to pay me," Fitzsimmons said.

When the federal government does reopen, it will be up to Congress to pass a bill to give the workers retroactive pay. Many are not able to get part-time jobs since they still have to report to work, and in some cases they are barred from working outside security jobs.

The union president said while hundreds of employees are working at the prison for free, the inmates themselves continue to get paid for the work they do around the prison.

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