The Herald Bulletin

March 16, 2013

Crane workers protest coming furloughs

By Nate Smith
CNHI News Service

CRANE, Ind. — Some workers at NSWC Crane protested in front of the base on Friday against upcoming sequester cuts.

Members of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1415 blocked off a corner of the town in front of the base’s visitors center to protest government cuts that will put many of the workers on furlough one day a week.

Meetings have been held at the base this week to discuss the cuts and official notices will be given to employees next week, base officials confirmed Friday. Crane is the hardest-hit area of the state in the sequester battle.

The sequester will cut the workers’ salaries 20 percent, according to Jimmy Colvin, president of the local union.

“That’s going to have a devastating effect on our employees in order to pay their mortgages, pay their car payments, electric, gas and put food on the table,” Colvin said. “This is going to have an effect on the local economy as well. We are going to have 20 percent less to spend.”

The cuts will start on the last week of April and last until the end of the current federal fiscal year in September for many at the 4,500-worker base. At the protest, workers said the sequester should not have happened.

“This sequestration and furlough could have been avoided,” Colvin said. “All they had to do was submit a budget, submit it to the president for signature and this would have been avoided.

Colvin, like many in the protest, believed their representatives betrayed them.

“We have been discriminated against and have been singled out, by the congressmen, to have the full impact of this on our backs,” Colvin said.

All the members had signs provided by the union saying “Stop Furloughs,” “Stop Sequester,” and “Stop Pay Freeze.” The group of about 30 walked next to the visitor’s center, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, sequester’s got to go.”

Passing vehicles honked in solidarity to the protest. Roy Pannell, a former national vice president of the union, said the soldier overseas suffers because of the sequester cuts.

“It’s unconscionable, it’s un-American yet they wrap themselves around the flag,” Pannell said. “These employees have made a decision to hold the defense of this country.”

Scott Arnold, the current national vice president for the union’s sixth district, said, “Sequestration was never supposed to happen.”

“These are federal workers and dedicated workers,” Arnold said. “They’ve given $122 billion towards deficit reduction when you talk about pay freezes. You talk about the decrease of pension contributions, no other group has given that much to deficit reduction.”

Lois Mitchell, Bedford, said she has a grandson going to Afghanistan. She wanted to make sure the items Crane makes in supporting soldiers got to him.

“The people who are over there now, we’re not going to be able to help them,” Mitchell said.

“If we’re not going to support the warfighter, who will?” Colvin said.

Colvin said he and local secretary/treasurer Mary Crow went to Washington D.C. in February to talk about the sequester at Crane with congressmen from Indiana. He said their requests were heard “on deaf ears” and  representatives like 8th District Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Newburgh, and U.S. Senators Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly should not be re-elected because of their inactions.

Bucshon, through a spokesman, disagreed with the notion he has not done anything and said the congressman has voted twice for a federal budget without the sequester cuts.

Tara DiJulio, spokesperson for Coats, said he also opposed the legislation.

“The men and women at Crane go to work every day supporting our warfighters and Coats believes Washington should cut the hundreds of duplicative and inefficient programs within our federal government rather than furlough hardworking Hoosiers at Crane and the uniformed military technicians of the Indiana National Guard,” DiJulio said.

Donnelly, through a spokesperson, said, “It is past time to for Democrats and Republicans to set politics aside.”

“Hoosier priorities are at risk because lawmakers were unable to focus on finding common ground and instead chose to draw political lines in the sand,” the statement read. “Discussions about sequestration should not be about assigning blame and winning political fights - they should be focused on finding alternatives both parties can agree to.”

The cuts that will go into effect in April could have far reaching consequences, Colvin and others said.

Crow, who lives in Daviess County, said the cuts will hurt local charities. Federal employees are invited to donate to the charity of their choice through the Combined Federal Campaign.

“I don’t think people will be able to afford it,” Crow said. “This base has been well known for its people to be generous.”