Reporting Michael Rosenfield
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (CBS) – Government workers, many from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, rallied today to send a message to Washington that potential budget cuts will hurt families.
“Everyone seems to think we make a ton of money working for the government,” said shipyard worker Wendy Smith. “It’s just not the case, it’s going to make a huge impact on my family life, on my budget at home, on any future purchases. I would love to buy a new car, but that’s not happening.”
Union leaders say a possible furlough could lead to 22 forced days off this year without pay.
“We will struggle to make our mortgage payments, our car payments, kids tuition, regular household bills,” said Paul O’Connor, a union leader with the Metal Trades Council which represents about 2,500 workers at the shipyard.
Shipyard workers say the impact of the furlough would be 20 percent of their income, and say that is money that will not be spent at local merchants.
Portsmouth businesses like The Works Bakery Cafe, which gets a boost from local workers with cash to spare, are hoping the cuts do not drag out for years.
“The shipyard has been a major employer in this area for a long time and a lot of that money gets spread around locally so we’re hoping this is a short-time thing,” said Josh Runyan, assistant manager at the bakery.
Air Traffic Controllers at today’s rally said about 600 of them in New Hampshire and Maine could see similar furloughs, and travelers should be concerned about air safety.
Social service agencies at the rally said they are preparing for cuts to programs like Head Start and heating assistance for the elderly.
“The fuel assistance client that has historically come to us that may be a senior will not get fuel assistance,” said Patte Ardizzoni of Rockingham Community Action.
The cuts are still up in the air, but workers are already bracing for the impact.
“Luckily I’ve got a little bit of cash I can fall back on, but a lot of people don’t,” said Smith, the shipyard worker.