Shipyard Workers Protest Sequestration


March 25, 2013

Workers across the nation rallied March 20 and 21 to protest likely furloughs brought on by the more than $1 trillion in automatic federal spending cuts known as the sequestration.


Some of the largest events were held in cities that are home to U.S. Navy shipyards. Navy cutbacks are expected to hit the shipbuilding industry particularly hard.

In Hawaii, shipyard workers from the Pearl Harbor Naval Station protested in downtown Honolulu, denouncing potential furloughs that could cost employees up to 20 percent of their paychecks.

Hawaii Federal Employees Metal Trades Council President Don Bongo told KITV-TV:

All we want Congress to do is get their act together. They need to repeal or stop sequestration, stop the furloughs and especially stop picking on the working families of America. That’s all we ask.

The disruptive effects furloughs will have on ship production could end up costing taxpayers more than they’ll save, says the Honolulu Local 1186 member.

In New Hampshire, IBEW members from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard joined with air traffic controllers and members of the local community to demand an end to sequestration.

Paul O'Connor, who heads the Seacoast Metal Trades Council, told the crowd:

Remember, as we struggle to make ends meet, as we fall deeper and deeper in debt and our families struggle through the stress, as financial instability impacts our ability to maintain security clearances, and as nuclear submarines begin to stack up awaiting required maintenance, as all that happens, remember sequestration was manufactured.

Congressional Republicans and President Obama agreed to the sequester in the summer of 2011. Under that agreement, failure to slash the deficit by $4 trillion by 2013 would result in automatic across-the-board cuts.

Obama and congressional Democrats offered numerous plans to avoid the cuts, but were blocked by the GOP, which rejected any budget plan that did not involve cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

The cuts went into effect March 1. The IBEW and other unions representing federal workers are currently negotiating over instituting furloughs.

In Norfolk, Va., home to Naval Station Norfolk – which has served as the economic bedrock of the Tidwater region for decades – plumbers, sheet metal workers, electricians and other shipyard workers picketed outside the yard March 20.

Virginia AFL-CIO President Doris Crouse-Mays told WAVY-TV:

It’s totally unfair to the working men and women in this state. This is going to hit Virginia really, really hard. It’s also going to have a ripple effect in the community.


Photo Credit: Virginia AFL-CIO