Government shutdown leaves local corrections officers in a bind

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SAN DIEGO — Day 19 of the partial government shutdown has federal corrections officers thinking about the future and contingency plans.

Tracy Sigale, the president of AFGE local 261, says everyone is feeling the effects of the shutdown: “When the president is talking about months to a year for the government shutdown? I’m only good for a month. After that, there’s only so many loans, so many favors I can ask.”

Federal officers are considered “essential employees” so they must show up to work without pay, including overtime, while Congress and the president continue to dig in over border safety.

Marco Sanchez is the Vice President of the union. He says the fight is personal: “In this fight, there’s everyday people like us that have families that are going to suffer and we won’t be able to make ends-meet. I’m working double shifts, 16 hours-a-day, without pay. We have a lot of new officers that just joined and they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck. So they’re the ones that are going to be struggling.”

And it’s those newer employees that are now calling out sick to work other temporary jobs, just so they can continue to put food on the table and pay their bills. It all has a ripple affect, especially in a job that requires 100 percent of their attention.

“I can’t blame them for calling out sick,” Sigale told FOX 5. “If you’re being distracted with what’s going on with your financial situation, I don’t need them here trying to manage 200 inmates.”

Sanchez says he will do his duty — but it doesn’t feel good. “We have to go in as professionals and act like everything‘s OK. But deep down inside, you feel like, ‘Wow, if this lasts a few months, how am I my going pay my bills? How am I going to feed my family?’”

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