Defense Workers' Furlough Notices Expected This Week - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Defense Workers' Furlough Notices Expected This Week

Updated: March 19, 2013 09:02 PM CDT
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The decisions have been made. Now, letters should be on the way to most Department of Defense civilian employees, putting them on notice that their furlough days will soon begin.

This, after Congress failed to act in time to stop the across-the-board federal spending cuts known as the Sequester.

These unpaid days off will have an impact far beyond the gates of the Rock Island Arsenal.

The federal government employs about 2.2 million civilians in all. About 800,000 of them work for the Department of Defense. That includes more than 7,000 DoD civilians who work here at the Arsenal.

Although the Pentagon has not said publicly exactly how many workers will be furloughed - or who they will be - officials say those decisions have now been finalized - and the letters will start going out on Friday.

"I think everybody knows that it's coming. I think most of the folks would just as soon have it," said Craig Flenker, President of Local 2119 - American Federation of Government Employees, one of the larger groups of unionized federal employees working at the Arsenal.

But, even if they're glad to finally have the letters in hand, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone happy about what it means for them.

"What's seemingly insignificant right now, six months from now will be gravely huge in probably every segment of our economy," Flenker said.

The letters serve as a legally required 30-day notice for workers that will see furlough days - once a week for the rest of the fiscal year - beginning April 26th.

Those forced unpaid days off amount to a roughly 20% pay cut for six months, for a huge portion of the work force.

"The splinter of people that will not be touched by this is just a very small number of people," said Flenker.

"So what's that going to mean? It's going to reverberate, it's going to take people a long time to get over this," he explained.

Flenker said other groups may be taking different days off, depending on what they negotiate, but the workers AFGE represents, at least, will be forced to take four day weekends every other week.

"My understanding, very simply, is that they'll shut down Friday and open back up Tuesday," Flenker said.

All employees who get the furlough notices will have one week to appeal the DoD's decision. By all accounts, though, few - if any - will likely be successful.

"I hope and pray that our elected officials come to their senses and stop it," Flenker said.

But the expected furloughs letters are proof that the window to get that done is quickly closing.

On Wednesday, the American Federation of Government Employees plans to hold a number rallies across the country, including one in Rock Island, to protest the effects of sequestration.