Fighting the Furloughs - KMOT.COM - Minot, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Fighting the Furloughs

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The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to petition and assemble.  And those rights were on full display in Minot earlier today, to highlight how furloughs, or temporary work stoppages, are affecting some employees of the Minot Air Force Base.

"Stop the furloughs,"  "Help me pay my bills," and "End the furloughs now." Those were the messages being displayed along Highway 83 earlier today. 

"Mainly its to raise awareness for the sequestration, the furloughs and how it affects the families and people that work at the Minot Air Force Base," says Tom Ricker, President of the North Dakota branch of the American Federation of Labor.

A group of civilian employees with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) voiced their anger over Congress allowing the furloughs to take affect. 

"They've been expecting us to do the same quality and quantity of work with less people, less resources.  It's just getting harder and harder, our morale is so low and we're so beaten down that people are leaving to find jobs elsewhere that are more reliable and higher pay," stated Christina Mandrell, Treasurer of the Minot branch of AFGE.

There are roughly 400 to 500 civilian employees at Minot Air Force Base, and AFGE local leaders say the Air Force is set to cut $1.7 Million Dollars in civilian pay across the nation. 

"We are not protesting against Minot Air Force Base itself, we are just speaking against the wrongs we feel we've had to deal with the last three years, and we're pretty tired of it," says Mandrell. 

Ricker adds, "It's not helping them either, the cuts to the military, the cuts to defense budgets, it's not helpful to them either.  I'm sure they're feeling the pinch the same way the government employees are feeling the pinch."

Minot Air Force Base officials released this statement: "The Department of Defense is one of several government agencies that experienced a significant budget cut.  We expect to receive $46 Billion Dollars less in non-exempt budget accounts through the remainder of fiscal year 2013.  Savings from furloughs will be critical to meeting budgetary cuts by the end of the year.  Nevertheless, we respect and defend the right for the American people to peaceably assemble and voice their opinions." 

While there's no clear cut answer to the nation's budgetary problems, civilian employees in Minot hope a change is made soon, and made for the better.  "Congress really needs to look at the overall picture, and look at ways to balance the budget without hurting the working people," concluded Ricker. 

Cuts to Department of Defense funding have resulted in a 20 percent pay cut for the civilian employees at Minot Air Force Base.

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