Fed-up federal workers protest pending furloughs outside Fort Worth base

Posted Thursday, Mar. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- Carrying signs that read "End Sequestration Now" and "Federal Employees Have Sacrificed Enough," more than a dozen federal workers protested pending furloughs outside Naval Air Station Fort Worth on Wednesday morning.

The rally was part of a "national day of action" organized by the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union.

"We are here to show Congress that we are really serious about our jobs and our pay," said Jennifer Elmore, an Air National Guard electronic technician and local union steward.

Sequestration is the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that was part of the Budget Control Act. About 800,000 federal employees nationwide could face 22 days of furlough, or one day a week, according to the union officials.

Rallies were to occur Wednesday outside federal agencies and lawmakers' offices to highlight the work performed by federal employees at military bases, Social Security offices, federal prisons and other locations, according to the AFGE national office.

Federal workers have already experienced a two-year salary freeze, federation officials point out.

"Our message is very clear: Sequestration has got to go," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement. "If federal employees are furloughed without pay, if offices and plants are shut down, if vacancies aren't filled because of these across-the-board budget cuts, then federal employees won't be able to do the work that the American public expects them to do."

It is unknown exactly how many workers at the Fort Worth base will be furloughed, Elmore said. Workers expect to receive their notices by the end of the week.

Officials have previously said that almost 2,200 civilian workers at the base faced the possibility of furlough.

Workers gathered at 8 a.m. just outside the front gates, printing signs and gathering flags to wave at vehicles entering and leaving the base. One woman removed her jacket to reveal a T-shirt printed with the words "Congress, we are not your Piggy Bank!"

Mike Crable, a cook supervisor at the Federal Medical Center Carswell and a union representative, said about 500 fellow prison workers could be impacted in Fort Worth. Federal prisons are already staffed at "the bare minimum" and furloughs could put staff in danger, he said.

Also, furloughs can stress the personal budgets of federal employees, who may face disciplinary action for delinquent bills under their employee code of conduct, he said.

"Now that's a greater possibility that could happen to any one of us," Crable said. "Everybody is already just barely making it now."

Jeremy Nabors, a union representative and a propulsion technician with the Air National Guard, said the furloughs will impact management down to labor. Workers will take a big hit in their disposable income and, as a result, spend less money in the local economy, he said.

While the size of the protest was modest, many workers on base couldn't get the time off to participate, he said. However, they voiced support for the event.

"We're here supporting all the personnel who are on base working right now," he said.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1

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