Protesting Furloughs at MAFB - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Protesting Furloughs at MAFB

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People driving Highway 83 north of Minot this morning saw something unusual.

Protesters were picketing near the entrance to Minot Air Force Base.

As Jim Olson reports, the group was airing a grievance that they say is costing all of us money.

As the sun rose over north-central North Dakota, more than a dozen people took up positions along a very busy stretch of highway.

They stood within a mile of the south entrance of Minot Air Force Base - a place many of them work - protesting a pay cut, or more accurately, a forced furlough that is costing hundreds of workers at the base 20% of their salary for 14 weeks. It's a cut these protesters say will mean a loss of $1.7 million to the local economy through lost wages.

(Christina Mandrell, AFGE Local 4046) "We took a 20% pay cut for our annual salary so for a lot of us we haven't had a pay raise in about three years."

Christina Mandrell helped organize the early morning protest for the American Federation of Government Employees Local 4046. She says the inability of Congress and the White House to agree on budget cuts has resulted in hundreds of workers at the base to lose one day of pay per week - a 20% cut.

(Christina Mandrell, AFGE Local 4046) "It's heartbreaking because we love our jobs and want to be able to do our jobs."

(Tom Ricker, ND AFL-CIO President) "It's a good showing."

With honks of support from motorists on the road - many of whom would be turning in to the base to report for a day's work - the head of the state ALF-CIO took up a sign himself, to show support for the union workers' cause.

(Tom Ricker, ND AFL-CIO President) "We're not demonstrating against the base or anything, just trying to raise public awareness of how damaging these furloughs are to the employees here."

(Christina Mandrell, AFGE Local 4046) "They're using us as political pawns to get their way. And Congress has not passed a budget in five years."

The result of Washington's inability to agree on budget cuts was the sequester - an idea reportedly hatched within the Obama administration and agreed to by Congress in 2011 that inserted automatic budget cuts effective this year if no other cuts were enacted. The result has been about $85 billion in across-the-board cuts this fiscal year, including about $37 billion in cuts to the military. At Minot Air Force Base, that has meant hundreds of civilian employees must take one day off per week without pay.

(Tom Ricker, ND AFL-CIO President) "I'm here to support our brothers and sisters in the AFGE and demonstrate against the damaging effects of the sequestration furloughs."

(Christina Mandrell, AFGE Local 4046) "It's very important."

Important enough for Mandrell to organize and join the protest that these people hope gets the attention of the decision makers in Washington before the next fiscal year begins in October - a year that is currently expected to bring billions more in budget trimming that could continue to impact these workers. At Minot Air Force Base, Jim Olson, KX News.

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