PA Budget Impasse: Ten Things

Note:  This is part of a series of posts detailing the 2009 Pennsylvania budget impasse.  To see all posts in this series, click here.

With no budget in place as of 5:30 this evening, it’s looking less and less likely that one will be passed in time to avoid paycheck interruption.  Put simply, we’re about to go over the edge.  If it’s any comfort, remember that there are 70,000 of us all the same boat.  You are not alone.

I wanted to make this post because there is a tremendous amount of bad information floating around out there about what employees should and should not do when the paychecks stop.  Just remember that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.  This is merely my opinion.  What you ultimately choose to do or not do is entirely up to you.  I take no responsibility for your actions.

  1. DO NOT SKIP WORK. This is the most repeated suggestion I’ve heard in person and online, and it is by far the worst.  If you decide not to go to work, you run the risk of facing disciplinary action.  I understand and agree that it’s unfair for our employer to require us to work without pay (even delayed pay).  It’s a violation of our labor agreement, it’s illegal, and it’s a bad-faith action on the part of the state.  However, abandoning your job — even organizing an office-wide sick day — can weaken your pursuit for justice.  If you run out of gas money or can no longer afford to come to work, then you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.  But do everything in your power to continue coming to work as long as possible.
  2. DO NOT REFUSE TO WORK. Showing up and refusing to do anything is as bad as not showing up at all.  We’re all rightfully frustrated and angry, and in time we will get what’s due.  But for right this moment, do your best to do the right thing.  If we don’t, the state gains ground in arguing that we’re not due any wages because we failed to do our jobs.
  3. DO NOT FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF LABOR & INDUSTRY. The state does not have the authority to bring suit against itself.  To have any merit whatsoever, your complaint needs to be filed at the federal level with the regional office of the US Department of Labor.  They can be reached at 570-826-6316 (Wilkes-Barre), 215-597-4950 (Philadelphia), or 412-395-4996 (Pittsburgh).  Which brings me to my next item:
  4. DO NOT FILE A COMPLAINT UNTIL YOU MISS PAY. Until you actually receive a short paycheck, or until you miss a paycheck entirely, no violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act has actually occurred.  Check your pay stub in ESS (SAP) and look for hours listed as “LWOP” (Leave Without Pay).  If you have any listed this way, you were not paid for them, and the state is in violation.  Without a violation, a complaint is meaningless.
  5. DO NOT TELL YOUR CREDITORS THAT YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO PAY THEM. Saying “sorry, I can’t pay you anymore” may get you immediately thrown into collections.  Instead, call or (preferably) write your creditors and let them know what’s going on.  Be sure to tell them that you intend to do your best to continue making payments, and ask for their help with whatever deferment or forbearance they can offer.  Most creditors would rather let you pay $5 / month on your mortgage than lose your account entirely, if they know you’re in circumstances beyond your control.
  6. DO NOT COUNT ON YOUR UNION TO DO ANYTHING. AFSCME has only recently started updating its website daily with information about the impasse.  Aside from that, they’ve asked us to hand out “AFSCME business cards” to local merchants.  And that’s about it.  They’ve also misquoted the AFSCME v Rendell lawsuit, rushing — oddly enough — to Rendell’s side on the issue.  At the end of the day, you and you alone are responsible for your well-being.
  7. DO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR SUPERVISOR. At my office, we all have great two-way working relationships with our management team.  Lines of communication are wide open, and we’ve already discussed our concerns about the impasse.  If worst comes to worst, a call to your supervisor letting him or her know that you won’t be in tomorrow because you can’t afford to put gas in your car goes a long way towards demonstrating that you’ve acted in good faith to execute your job duties for as long as possible.
  8. DO PLAY BY THE RULES. Even though the state is about to break the law and violate our rights, it is absolutely critical that we continue to take the high road.  If you plan on going job-hunting, be sure to fill out your agency’s supplemental employment paperwork.  Be sure it gets submitted properly, and wait for approval before doing anything.  Is this fair?  Absolutely not.  But considering the doctrine of unclean hands, the best thing for our cause is to keep on playing by the rules.
  9. DO FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR. Because of the 10th Amendment, it’s very unlikely that a private lawsuit would be successful against the state.  To seek justice under the Fair Labor Standards Act, you will need to enlist the help of the federal government.  There are three regional offices serving Pennsylvania.  Their contact information has been posted here repeatedly, and I’ll post everything again tomorrow.
  10. WHINE.  COMPLAIN.  YELL.  CALL.  FAX.  EMAIL.  BLOG.  TWEET.  SPEAK UP.  REMEMBER. Governor Rendell said “no whining”.  But our legislature and governor work for us.  Demand that they stop their political pissing contest and put a budget in place RIGHT NOW!  Do not accept “we’re trying” or “we’re working on it”.  If the answer isn’t “we’re voting on it right now”, then they aren’t doing what we’re paying them a tremendous amount of money to do.  And if that doesn’t work, vote against every incumbent when election time rolls around.

Remember that this impasse doesn’t just affect state employees.  The spending power of 70,000 state employees is about to vanish overnight. And we’re not just talking about bureaucrats here — state troopers and prison guards are all on the no-pay list.  Vendors aren’t getting paid for things like electricity, fuel, and rent.  Area business owners are going to see a major hit on their income.  Any one of these factors alone will be devastating — and they’re all about to hit at the same time.

Hang on tight — here we go.

33 thoughts on “PA Budget Impasse: Ten Things”

  1. On behalf of all the state workers who would have never gotten so much information and good advice, thank you for all the research and work you have done to get this information out there! I think we have all learned that neither our employer or our union are able or willing to do what you have done for us. I hope the FSLA is ready for us tomorrow!

  2. Very well written.

    I am one of the many people @ my SCI that was turned down for the greatfull loans Rendel brags about. As for my statue, I can’t quite figure how to pile S#!T that high yet.

    I have been contacting all of our local representatives and only one has had the courage to speak out for all of us,that is Rep John Evans.

    please keep up the good work putting out this info.

  3. it seems that all those at SCIs around the state will have to wait until the 24th to file their complaints…also as an aside, does anyone know an individual does not call the DOL will he not be eligible for damages of the feds take action? Im asking on behalf of some lesser informed coworkers

  4. oh and i was approved today for the PSECU line of credit however after the budget is signed i have 60 days to pay it off or else i have interest to pay on it and seeing as how our checks will be taxed heavily i will have to draw less than i normally make to stay afloat

  5. I was made aware today that as of our first short payday we may be able to get food stamps.I do know that the food banks in my area are doing all they they can to help state employees put food on the table.
    Is anyone out there hearing what I just said?We are people employed by the people.State government workers.The same as our elected reps. We work but some must consider the reality of having to accept charity to feed our children.How long after the budget is passed will it take for us to forget how much we mean to our elected officals.
    So much for Pride in a job well done.


  7. I heard from a few people that their credit was pulled w/out their knowledge or consent by PSECU. (I guess) If they have your signature on file, they just went ahead and approved you. That’s why Rendell said on PCN that he “just heard 30,000+ employees were approved.”

    This whole bank deal is VERY questionable. Why is the governor the ONLY one happy about these loans? DO NOT TRUST BANKS!!! 9 TRILLION in bailouts in the last year, and now they have the nerve to question individual’s credit standing.


  8. Czeck…yes, you can apply for foodstamps and will get them if you qualify. Several DPW posters who process foodstamp apps have posted on the various threads here on floor9 explaining how to do it and what does/doesn’t qualify.

    go to the floor9 homepage. On the right look for the category bubble…lots of words…find budget and click on it. All the posts on budget will be there. Read through them and you will find up to date information. Be sure to read them all though…there are some corrections.

    Good luck!

  9. Hey, just wanted to say, as a Pennsylvanian I am disgusted that our government would allow this to happen to our state employees. It is further sickening that the Governor will continue to receive pay during this fiasco.

    Good luck, hang in there, and know that the people of this state know and appreciate what you do for us on a daily basis.

  10. Hi, Just found you on FARK. I have been looking for a site to vent my anger at the budget impasse. I am so angry at the COPs suggestion that we contact food banks. WTH, that the govenor thinks it is ok that we use resources that are needed for the very people we take care of. To force workers to use these food banks is appalling.

    I work at a CAO. Our office was told to compile the names of all state workers applying for benefits. I think that that is an intimidation tactic that the Department of Agriculture should have issues with.

    If your only income is COP money, you probably wont be eligible for SNAP – food stamps, until 8/1/09.

    Great site, tickled to find you fellow FARKER.

  11. OK, boys and girls, gather around in a nice little school circle–this is your Come to Jenk Meeting. And anyone who brought gum better have brought enough for the rest.

    Right. Here’s the deal. I’m an Income Maintenance Caseworker at a Philadelphia CAO district office, and I’ve been in Intake since 2006. Individually our unit processes over 100 new or repeat applications a month at this point; I suspect in a few months we’ll look back on that as “the good old days”. Uh-huh–we’re all overworked, so where am I going with this. Glad you asked.

    As a practical matter most of you will not be eligible for any DPW benefits–Cash Assistance, Medical Assistance, or Food Stamps (And just what kind of hare-brained jackass decided to call the Food Stamp program “SNAP”? You’re not Chris Rock, this isn’t a comedy club and you seriously need to do something productive–might I suggest using a rubber band to launch sharpened pencils into the drop ceiling? That’s about your speed. Good luck with it.). Nope, your income for the entire month of July, reduced as it is, still probably exceeds the limits for most programs. Don’t forget some of us got a full pay on 07/03/09, which pretty much blew us up for July. August? That’s another story.

    You will not have any countable income in the month of August unless a budget is passed. WE CANNOT ANTICIPATE INCOME THAT YOU “MIGHT” RECEIVE! Therefore, you will be eligible for benefits on a case-by-case basis; most of you will at least qualify for Food Stamps. Yeah, two SNAPs up and all of that–spare me, please.

    If you’re really strapped, apply on 08/3/09, and wait for a face-to-face interview. You will probably qualify for Expedited Food Stamps, which means you will get those Food Stamps by 08/09/09 at the latest. If you can hold out, wait until 08/17/09. Then you will still qualify for Expedited Food Stamps but your issuance will cover you until 09/30/09 instead of 08/31/09.

    Now this is for my fellow DPW workers here–don’t stay home on those days. You’re gonna get creamed. Trust me, I see this every month, and with Labor Day coming August is already gonna be ugly (BTW, I can’t wait for Eddie’s Labor Day message to us–“How does my ass taste? Want some more?”). But there’s a silver lining to this cloud–ADAs will be processing DPW employee applications and will get a taste of what we intake grunts eat up every day.

    DO NOT MAKE YOUR FELLOW WORKERS WORK EVEN HARDER BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT THERE!!! That’s just not right, and unless you’re a politician or some other kind of moral defective you know that.

    Most of you probably will not qualify for Cash or Medical Assistance. If you do qualify for TANF, consider asking for three-month diversion payment. That’s a lump sum payment of three months worth of benefits without any serious hassles, and it’s a Federal program. Hopefully the feds will notice the uptick and start looking at what’s going on in Harrisburg. Unless Ed has the fix in with Washington, in which case we may be pretty much screwed.

    Apply for whatever benefits you can, but do it on or after 08/03/09. And notify anyone you know in the media that this is what things have come to. Let’s give that fat New York carpetbagger a nice black eye as a going-away present….

  12. Okay crew, we’re in a bind. I know it’s a tough pill to swallow, when it comes to food stamps, food banks and soup kitchens, but do what I plan to do. Take advantage of it and when we get back on our feet, GIVE BACK to those who are going out of our way to help us out!!!

  13. @Jenk

    Thank you for this extemely valuable information. I will do as you say. I will also pass this on to my co-workers. Thank you.

  14. I caution everyone applying be brutally honest on the application for cash assistance and the program formerly known as Food Stamps. It would truly be awful to be fired for a welfare overpayment. I would suggest that you apply online 8/1 for welfare benefits. I also suggest that instead of diversion that you apply for TANF if you have children in need of daycare. Your work schedule should meet work participation rates and this will give you automatic extended childcare (ECC) benefits once you are closed for earned income. I hope that management remembers to review for extended food stamps when closing everyone out for earned income.

  15. Well folks I don’t know about you but I am pretty sore from all the screwing”Fast Eddie” has given me and other state workers.. but then again.. what does he care, he don’t have to worry about paying any bills since we the hard working tax payers of the Commonwealth pay for him.. I’m really sure he is deeply concerned about our families as he sits down to a nice dinner of Prime Rib that we pay for , as well as the wages of his 2 personal Chefs that we are paying for..
    Now to some things that need to be addressed..How many of you have been turned down by the PSECU for those loans/lines of Credit that Eddie worked so hard to set up for the people ?? in reality there are only about 10% of the people eligable for them so where does that leave the rest of us?? I’ll tell you where.. standing out in the cold so to speak with “ole blue” waving in the wind . I really think Eddie is suffering from Alzhiemers Disease.. he has no clue as to how families are being affected by this game of his.. Does he not realise that he is holding each and every one of us and our families HOSTAGE,, that’s right.. I said HOSTAGE.. by definition that is what it is,, he is not going to sign a budget until he gets what he wants.. so that is holding US and our families HOSTAGE by definition..He has failed to execute the office of Governor for way too many years and it is the feeling of myself and all the officers at the SCI’s that he should be Impeached immediatley..this is a man who has no conscience at all.. as he stated he does not want to hear any “whining ” from any of us.. I guess that it’s because it might ruin his appetite when he sits down to dinner everynight..

  16. Just wanted to let everyone know that we have been told that we have to have stateworkers sign a reimbursement form for cash diversion. DO NOT SIGN THIS FORM!!! I have spoke with 2 hearing officers about this requirement, which by the way is a double standard, and for cash diversion this was never required. Now that the state workers are strapped for cash they are scrambling to find anyway to change this policy. What I suggest is refusing to sign and requesting an appeal right then and there instead of waiting for a denial letter in the mail. Ask them to show you in policy where it states that you have to sign a reimbursement form for cash diversion. This is your right. Utilize it.

  17. I just wrote to the National Right to Work Legal Defense League to inquire what we might be able to do about our unions pushing the political agenda versus representing the interests of the members. I will be calling the Labor Dept. on 7/24/09. However, we need to make sure that this kind of crap doesn’t continue to occur. I am very interested in impeachment for our boy Fast Eddie. He is likely going to try to go national once he has finished screwing up PA and I think an impeachment would detract from his reputation as a politician. I looked over the PA constitution, but could not really get how to start the impeachment process. Any ideas?

  18. Robert and Rebel, THANK YOU for thinking what I have been thinking. IMPEACH…His Eddyness has been allowed to bully this state for FAR too long. They say not to call your senators and representatives…which is true, in all honesty we are not being totally imformed. It is not their fault this budget is not passed. It is Eddy, and his lackies Dwight Evans and Keith McCall. Call them if you want some answers. And if you do apply for cash diversion, it is not required to pay it back, so Carmen was right, if you’re asked to sign a form to reimburse cash diversion, do not sign it!!
    I was fortunate enough to be one of those state workers to be approved for the “Eddy loan” through PSECU, however I am trying my hardest not to use it unless it’s completely necessary. Where is my statue? I need something for target practice.

  19. These unions are not doing squat, except pushing a political agenda. For those of you who are interested, you can resign from the union and object to your funds being filtered into politics of the useless ones. What this means essentially is that despite it is compulsory for you to pay the fair share, none of the funds can be used for politics, just collective bargaining efforts. The GOV is actually biting the hands that have fed him. As a free thinker, I would advise everyone to review the card check legislation, it is not doing anyone any favors with the exceptions of those Union leaders who are being paid for absolutely nothing. A basic protection afforded by a union should be getting paid, we have numerous unions involved in advocating to no avail. Why pay them? For further information regarding resigning from the union as a political objector see:

    Contacting your representatives, the Dept. of Wage and Labor, not signing the cash diversion form, etc are some of our first lines of defense in this situation. However, this is also an opportunity to review our positions for the long term: i.e. find better union representation, impeach the GOV., and review upcoming legislation like card check. It seems to me there is more solidarity in this blog than within my union, lets keep the ball rolling.

  20. Rebel, I THINK it is up to the House to begin impeachment proceedings. I don’t know why I think that but I seem to have a dim memory of it from somewhere. With his party the majority I doubt you will see that happen. If the union grievance is successful in getting interest for the employees and the Federal government seeks damages and gets them and it IS the House that has to do it…bottom line, Ed’s conduct here costs the taxpayers a lot of money and they have the rainy day fund already allocated to the deficit to solve the budget…you might see the house majority wanting to distance themselves from him for the purposes of re-election. But I reckon it’s a long shot.

  21. I have only one bit of advice. During these troubling times please remember at your workplace we are all suffering take the time to listen to your co-workers share with eachother we can not do this alone and we need to be heard and understood I know it is only by way of my friends that i will get by.

  22. we need to replace every one of the elected people in P.A. of course you cant get every one to do it cuz of lack of balls sit back and let them give it to us over and over again stand up be a rebel as i said you wont and will never cause your scared bak bak bak

  23. Remember the names of these legislators the next time you cast your vote.
    They all have great rhetoric, when they seek your vote.
    You can send a powerful message by not voting for the same old same old.
    Actions speak louder than words.
    You only need to look at what’s happening in the new administration in the White House and Congress to know that rhetoric is costing us dearly.

  24. The gov. and ALL the state legislators have failed to do the job they were hired to do, therefore they should all be fired. They all knew the budget was due by June 30th. So what have they been doing all year?

    And what’s with the unions taking out their dues? Couldn’t they wait until we get a full pay check. My union, SEIU, has not been in touch with me with any information at all. I think they should all be fired too.

  25. Robert I totally agree with you. Not only should Fast Eddie be impeached but all of the legislators need to be voted out as well during the coming elections. It is their JOB to have this budget done by July 1st every year and it seems that every year for the past 7 years it hasnt been done. It is totally unfair that I have to go to work every day and receive no pay while the legislators are still receiving per diem to do nothing. And lets not forget that Rendell wants us to feel bad that some vacations had to be cancelled because of the impasse.

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