This past Thursday, Senator Gordner (R-Columbia) took to the floor and pointed out — finally — that requiring state employees to work without pay is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. He held up a sign with the phone number for the US Department of Labor and encouraged all state employees to file a complaint. Yesterday, Lt. Governor Scarnati told Governor Rendell in no uncertain terms to stop using state employees — and by proxy, Pennsylvania taxpayers — as pawns in this political game. While this is ultimately not a sign of anything in particular, it does suggest that perhaps our elected officials are beginning to realize the problem they just created. As if in slow motion, the thought of bearing responsibility for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages — to say nothing of the instant loss of spending power for 70,000 state employees — is causing them to reel around in terror and think “Oh god, what have we done?”
Not because they care, mind you. If they did, this would’ve been fixed months ago. It’s because the public is getting through to them. It’s because they are beginning to realize that this latest fiasco will harm their chances for re-election.
It’s because they now have to go home to their constituents and explain why 70,000 of us had to stop spending money on local businesses. And explain to employees of vendors servicing the state why their state contracts are going unpaid. And explain to every taxpaying Pennsylvanian why we’re all facing a few hundred million in damages and legal fees.
The wheels have not yet begun to turn — but they did just shudder to life.
It is absolutely imperative that every single taxpaying Pennsylvanian contact his or her legislator and governor and ask exactly what the hell is going on. The money is already there — we’re not broke. Rather, our elected officials have decided they don’t feel like spending any of it because … well, I don’t think there really is any good reason.
Use sites like Vote Smart to find contact information for your local legislator. Just pop in your zip code and you’ll get the name, address, and phone number for your elected officials. Call every single one of them every day and demand a budget be passed. Tell them you plan to vote against them in the next election. Remind them that they work for you, not the other way around. If they’ve taken a single day off since July 1st — if they’ve taken one single holiday, one single weekend break, one single sick day — ask them why. Ask them what gives them the right to expose every Pennsylvania taxpayer to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Ask them why they feel it to be appropriate that vendors on state contracts go unpaid.
Ask them why they believe that hard work bears no reward.
Write to your local newspaper. Use Twitter. Use social media sites like Fark and Digg. Start your own blog. Let the world know that this isn’t just about your paycheck (although that’s certainly a LOT of it); it’s also about getting our legislature (and governor) to do the job that us taxpayers elect them to do.