For the last seven years, the single mother of Talladega has depended on her job at the Anniston Army Depot to support herself and her three children, one of whom is in college. But if Congress does not pass a budget deal to stave off scheduled military cuts March 1, Beavers and hundreds of her fellow depot employees could be out of a job.
“I think it’s all a game,” Beavers said of the current budget fighting in Washington. “We’re the workforce and we’re being held hostage.”
With their jobs in jeopardy, Beavers and more than 60 temporary depot workers met with local and state union leaders at the Bynum Community Center Wednesday to discuss how they will tell Congress to fight the military cuts. The group was given petitions to sign, which will soon be mailed to U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, Sen. Richard Shelby and Sen. Jeff Sessions.
“We are at war and this is our ammunition,” Anthony Young, Alabama council president of the AFGE union, said while holding a petition. “You need to take these as soon as you leave here to take out to the community.”
The massive military cuts, generally referred to as sequestration, were first conceived to be so devastating that Congress would be forced to replace them with a reasonable long-term plan to reduce spending. Congress has yet to reach a deal, however. Sequestration is scheduled to cut 9.4 percent from the defense budget and 8.2 percent from domestic programs.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has set forth guidelines for what all military bases and depots might need to do to curb spending should sequestration take effect. Among the proposals is laying off all temporary employees. The depot currently has 371 temporary employees whose contracts do not extend beyond March 30. The depot employs a total of about 3,000 civilians.
“If all temps are released tomorrow, our mission will fail,” said Shrene Funderburg, president of AFGE Local 1945, the local union that represents the depot workers. “It would be devastating to this area to lose all those jobs.”
Beavers said a pink slip for her would mean leaving the area to find a job elsewhere.
“The last few months I’ve been doing some job searches and other than Honda, any other job that I’d have to take, my pay now would be cut in half,” Beavers said.
Rodney Woodruff, an Army veteran who has worked at the depot for seven years as a temporary worker, said he would also have to leave the area to find new work.
“I have family here … I’ve got a father who is 84 years old,” Woodruff said. “I’d hate to leave him.”
In Woodruff's view, the politicians in Washington are not looking out for American workers.
“I think they are playing political games,” Woodruff said. “They’ve got their own personal agendas and regular people are the ones that suffer.”
Al Henley, president of the Alabama AFL-CIO, said he had spoken to other union leaders around the state who said they will support depot union workers with their own lobbying efforts.
“Labor unions in the United States of America are one big family,” Henley said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.