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Treasury union blasts IRS labor recall amid shutdown

January 31, 2019

A Treasury employee union says the “mass call back” of tens of thousands of workers for the tax-filing season is exactly why it’s suing to prevent the administration from forcing members to work “in exchange for only an IOU.”

The National Treasury Employees Union said the IRS is right to prepare for the filing season that begins Jan. 28, but the answer is to force tough political decisions that would reopen the government.

“IRS employees want to work,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said. “But the hard, cold reality is that they’ve already missed a paycheck and soon they’ll be asked to work for free as long as the shutdown lasts.”

The IRS announced Tuesday it will require 46,000 workers to toil without pay during filing season, if the shutdown keeps going. That means only 43 percent of its workforce will be furloughed at home, compared to 88 percent at the start of the shutdown in late December.

Union lawyers argue that forcing workers to report violates the appropriations clause of the Constitution by offering the executive branch a “blank check” to demand labor while the shutdown persists.

A judge denied their request for a temporary restraining order Tuesday, saying there would be chaos if he let workers decide whether to report or stay home.

NTEU lawyers argued, to no avail, that the government could be given 72 hours to get its ducks in a row or strike a funding deal.

For now, the NTEU says it’s worried that employees won’t even be able to make it to the office.

“I’m worried whether these employees will have the money to put gas in their car to get to work,” Mr. Reardon said. “I’m worried that highly trained IRS employees will consider quitting so they can get a job that actually comes with a paycheck.”

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