Furloughs make workers scramble

“I’m seeking employment outside the DOD. I’ve just decided that it’s time for me to look elsewhere,” said Arens, a military retiree and vice president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 779.

The health service administration worker is among more than 650,000 civilians employed by the DOD forced to take off 11 days without pay by Sept. 30. They must take one furlough day a week, amounting to a 20 percent pay cut during that time.

DOD federal workers faced with furlough days are working second jobs, looking for other primary jobs, going to doctors’ appointments, cleaning out the garage and negotiating with creditors to get a break on payments.

“There are other people who are calling their legislators and saying, ‘Why haven’t you fixed this?’?” said Patty Viers, vice chairwoman of the AFGE Defense Conference.

Claude Jacques commutes from Abilene to work at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, and he’ll take his first furlough day Friday.

“I’ve been actually talking with my wife and entertaining the idea of starting a little moonlighting or something,” said Jacques, chief steward of AFGE Local 1035. “Really, I don’t know yet.”

At Goodfellow, 625 civil service workers will take furloughs, coordinating with supervisors as to which days.

At Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, 361 civilians will take furloughs, also coordinating with their supervisors.

Furloughs across the DOD will save about $1.8 billion to help meet sequester requirements to cut $37 billion by the end of September.

The Pentagon’s savings this year means more than a $3,000 pay cut for Corpus Christi Army Depot worker Ross Gonzales.

“That’s a lot of money to be missing out on,” said Gonzales, a single parent.

The 43-year-old Army veteran started thinking about a second job earlier this year after getting wind of furloughs. He has been putting in evening hours as a part-time baseball pitching instructor for VelocityLab in Corpus Christi since April.

“It’s not going to make up that 20 percent, nowhere near it,” Gonzales said “But it’s something.”

His son is a senior in high school, and Gonzales wants to pick up the tab for expenses associated with graduation such as senior pictures, he said.

During his first furlough day Friday, Corpus Christi Army Depot worker Noe I. Ramos Jr. will drive a forklift at his new second job.

Each week for the next three months, the father of two plans to put in 32 hours at the CCAD where he has worked almost 13 years and another 36 hours at Sutherlands Lumber Co., where he started July 5.

Most days, he will go to work at 6 a.m. at the depot and get off at 9 p.m. from Sutherlands with a half-hour in between.

“I really don’t like the whole thing with the furlough, but I need to support my family,” said Ramos, 36. “So working two jobs is what I’m going to have to do.”

Ramos doesn’t like furloughs for more than one reason.

“They’re hurting the workers here at the depot and hurting the soldiers that are out there because we can’t produce that one day, being off,” he said.

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