It could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in lost pay for the civilian workforce here. Military employees are exempt from the cuts.
At Corpus Christi Army Depot, the largest individual employer in town, civilian workers are bracing for possible furloughs that would amount to losing a day’s pay each week for the rest of the fiscal year, although depot and labor union officials said the Defense Department hasn’t given them guidance on specific cuts.
But they may have assumed the furloughs will happen based on comments from Defense Department officials.
“If furloughs are enacted, civilians will experience a 20 percent decrease in their pay between late April and September,” said Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of defense.
Army planning documents obtained by USA Today suggest sequestration would inflict $799 million in cuts at the depot.
The depot employed 4,067 people and had 1,438 contract employees as of January, spokesman Jose Rodriguez said.
Thousands more work under the Navy at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, which houses the depot. Workers there are nervous, too, spokesman Bob Torres said.
“When you talk about one-fifth of your pay taken away, it’s a concern,” he said.
Local Navy officials were given the required 30-day notice that cuts could happen, but there has been no word on specifics, Torres said.
A 20 percent furlough would cost Coastal Bend civilian base workers $139 a day on average, said Joe Gonzales, local union president of the American Federation of Government Employees No. 2142.
The unions are aiming their displeasure at U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi.
“We’re heavily civil service and he voted for the sequestration — that upsets me,” Gonzales said.
Though Farenthold voted for the appropriations bill in September, he has said sequestration was never meant to go into effect and he’s working with House committees and the Defense Department to make sure local bases are “spared from any drastic cost-saving measures.”
Jessica Carrion, whose husband works as a helicopter electrician at the depot, said the couple is bracing to lose as much as $700 a month — a grocery bill or mortgage payment. They already experienced the uncertainty of military spending when Naval Station Ingleside closed and he chose to retire from the Navy.
Gonzales said that makes the cuts even more distasteful, so many civilian workers being military veterans.
Carrion fears the ripple effects across the Coastal Bend, as thousands of military-supported families would suddenly pump less money into area businesses. The political maneuvering in Washington irks her.
“When people across the country start feeling those kinds of pinches in military towns like we are, they’re not going to care if it’s Republicans or Democrats ... This is on the shoulders of both parties,” she said. “They have to work together.”