WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Do you think Congress should take a pay cut or be furloughed if and when federal workers take furloughs? One WUSA 9 viewer suggested that Congress "get a taste of their own medicine."
One comment from Maryland's 5th District shows the frustration many people feel: "Congress is NOT above the law even though you act like it. Why should you be allowed to enjoy all of the benefits of your seat without doing your JOB?? ... DO your job and stop bickering for the sake of bickering! "
It is one of more than 2,800 letters that have come in due to this petition with our partners at POPVOX, all generated in the past few weeks. Are you a government worker worried your participation could lead to a job action? Email Jessica Doyle directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is hearing from many of you about the issues cropping up at work ahead of the sequester.
Federal workers are demanding lawmakers on Capitol Hill share the pain of sequestration. WUSA 9's petition is running 97 percent in favor of Congress facing penalties if federal workers are furloughed. Congress is listening.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) represents Maryland's 8th District. Almost 200 constituents have written to his office, with comments like this one: "Our family is relying on you to settle this matter and do your job."
When asked by WUSA 9 if he would be willing to accept a furlough, the Congressman answered, "We're working to try to make sure that nobody in our office gets furloughed. If I furlough other staff members, I'm happy to furlough myself as well. But I'm working hard to try to avoid that. So yes, I think within offices, members should be treated similar to how they are treating their staff, I think that's an important principle."
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has also announced that she will donate a day's pay for each day federal employees are furloughed this year.
But many federal workers have reached out to WUSA 9 with emails saying they are worried they could face retribution at work if they joined our petition to Congress. One viewer emailed, "I want to write, but am scared of job action." Another said, "Please do not use my name in any form, since I hold clearance and am attempting to protect my child."
You reached out to us, so we reached out to the Office of Personnel Management for the federal government, asking: is there is a problem with government workers exercising their First Amendment rights in sharing grievances to Congress?
After several days and conversations ranging across many government offices, we received this official response from OPM: "Federal employees have a right under the law and the Constitution to petition Congress, and they can't be retaliated against for doing so."
Still, there are guidelines you need to follow. William Dougan is the chairman of the Federal Workers Alliance, a coalition of 20 federal unions. He says federal workers need to be careful to participate in the petition on their own personal time and not use work computers. Dougan is challenging every federal employee, family member and friend to speak out against the sequester, recalling the famous words of Ghandi: "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."
Send Congress your thoughts on the issue in this petition. Please, share this link with family and friends across the country.