Federal workers union protests in Beaufort over sequestration cuts

cconley@islandpacket.comMarch 20, 2013 

Civilian union workers from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island rallied Wednesday near Beaufort City Hall for an end to the forced federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

Sue Partridge, who works at Parris Island, said furloughs from the $85 billion in federal budget cuts could affect hundreds of people at Beaufort County's three military bases.

Furlough notices, which are required 30 days before they take effect, could go out within days, she said.

"I don't think (people) realize the full potential of these cuts, especially how bad it's going to affect the economy of the local community," said Partridge, who leads the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1951.

"If people are losing 25 percent of their paycheck, they are not going to have money to buy things or go out to eat," she said. "People are going to have a hard time keeping food on the table."

Lt. Jean Durham, spokeswoman for Parris Island, said the base is prepared if civilian furloughs come, but said they have not been announced.

Furloughs won't affect base military personnel, Durham said.

They will affect most of the 430 civilian workers at the base and other Department of Defense civilian employees in Beaufort County, including teachers at Laurel Bay schools, Partridge said.

Civilian workers at Naval Hospital Beaufort and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort could also be affected.

Bob Cannon, maintenance worker at Parris Island and union member who participated in the rally, said it's been suggested that civilian employees will be required to take one day off a week for 22 weeks.

"It's not that we don't realize government has to cut spending and there probably has to be some tax increases to go with it, but this sequester is radical ... and (puts an unfair burden) on government workers," he said.

Wednesday's rally, which attracted at least a dozen people, was the first of its kind locally. Cannon expects more to be called if the cuts aren't reversed.

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