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Federal Workers Return For 'Surreal' Day At NASA Glenn

Federal employees at the NASA Glenn Research Center went back to work Monday after the goverment shutdown ended but as another potential shutdown looms in three weeks.

Paul Greenberg, research scientist and vice president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 28, said Monday was a "bit surreal" as co-workers caught up personally and professionally.

"People are still trying to get their computers back online, read their e-mails, touch base with their supervisors and their project managers," Greenberg said. "Trying to figure out where things are."

Greenberg says the shutdown and lack of a paycheck for five weeks affected each of NASA Glenn's 3,000 employees differently, with many sharing anecdotes. Sometimes the people hardest hit weren't the lowest level employees.

"A medical situation with yourself or a relative or some unenvisioned real estate ramification, a car accident, I mean it's not only the lowest paid (who were affected)," Greenberg said.

Staff Discuss Possibility of Another Shutdown

He added the potential for another shutdown in three weeks is often discussed among the workforce. 

"It's a little weird. We're starting to pull our schedules back together and already looking down the road at the possibility of having them annhiliated again, so it is being talked about quite a bit," Greenberg said.

Greenberg says the shutdown and being classified as non-essential workers affects current and future employees, and a five-week shutdown can affect someone's life's work.

"You want very high quality people to do it right," Greenberg said. "These kinds of things make it very difficult to attract, retain and motivate good people. And it's also very humiliating."

He added, "You work on these things for years. You go from idea to development to fabrication to deployment and operations, these things take decades."

In a letter to employees, NASA says their assistance program is still available to provide advice and support, along with their shutdown resource web page. Greenberg noted the first topic of the letter addressed safety, which he was happy to see.

"We don't make egg salad out of here," Greenberg said. "We have toxic chemicals, high pressures, lethal voltages. And you get distracted and that's when accidents happen."

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