Unless there is a break in Washington's political deadlock over spending cuts, or sequestration, furloughs at Offutt Air Force Base will begin in late April, leaders of the base's civilian employees union say.
The possible furloughs of the base's 2,000 civilian employees were the subject of much discussion Wednesday night at a meeting in Bellevue of about 40 union members.
Along with questions, there was talk about how employees would cope if forced to take 22 unpaid days off between now and Oct. 1, in effect losing 20 percent of their pay during that time.
“It's going to be really hard,'' said Alice Bishop, 62, a nurse at the base's health clinic.
Bishop said that even if she cuts out cable television, other entertainment and every other discretionary item in her family's budget, it still wouldn't offset the loss of income from the furloughs. She's the sole earner in her family and currently has a son in college.
Bruce Hawthorne, an aircraft mechanic and Air Force veteran, said he would have to take a part-time job to make ends meet.
“This is going to be a hardship for a lot of people,'' he said.
The vote Wednesday in the U.S. House that would fund the Department of Defense budget offered some hope that furloughs could be avoided, although there remains a big divide between the House, Senate and White House on how to move forward.
“I have hope there is some momentum,'' said Steve Johnson, union president and a welder at the base. “Possibly we can still get out from under that rock.''
Some union members expressed frustration that while they could face furloughs, Offutt officials said this week they still plan to go forward with the base's annual air show.
Said Hawthorne: “If they can afford to have an air show, they can afford to pay us.''
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