A worker at the National Weather Service's Alaska bureau added a hidden message to the Friday morning forecast: “PLEASE PAY US.”
NWS employees have been deemed “essential” but are not being paid during the government shutdown, much like air traffic controllers and federal prison guards. Even pregnant NWS employees, having lost maternity leave during the shutdown, are being forced to work without pay.
Dan Sobien, president of the NWS Employee Organization, told Popular Science that 75 to 80 percent of NWS staff is considered “essential,” but are working without pay.
These essential employees are given IOUs – guaranteed compensation – once the government reopens.
“There’s no money to pay them,” Sobien said. “Nobody knows when anyone’s going to get paid.”
He said federal employees responsible for payroll and human resources have been furloughed. There isn’t anyone to issue paychecks to NWS employees.
He said one NWS employee, who is nine months pregnant, is working because the shutdown has made it impossible for her to take maternity leave. If she wants leave she has to voluntarily go on furlough, “at which point she is effectively laid off,” Popular Science reported.
"Once she leaves to have the baby, she'd be put on furlough status, and couldn't come back to work unless the Secretary of Commerce approves her coming back," Sobien says.
When Raw Story called the Anchorage office for comment, they were told “no one wanted to comment right now.”