The government shutdown has once again left Fort Drum's civilian employees uncertain about their future. Their very unhappy union says workers are just a pawn in a big game in Washington, but people fail to realize it means some families going without food or gas. Our Brian Dwyer has more on what this shutdown means to them and Fort Drum as a whole.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The government has shutdown. About a third of Fort Drum's civilian workforce has been told not to come back to work. It was a somber mood on post Tuesday morning, to say the least.
"People are not happy," Loren Zeilnhofer, 1st Vice President AFGE Local 400 said. "Once again, we're the victims of a government that just can't seem to get its act together."
While active duty soldiers and critical to the mission employees like emergency responders won't be affected, many in offices like public affairs, maintenance, public works, even soldier training and range control are now facing an uncertain future.
Fort Drum's Commanding General posted this on the Division's Facebook page this morning: "These are difficult times; I know that the uncertainty of the current situation affects our military and our civilian workforce both personally and professionally. This lapse will challenge us, however, it is imperative that we recognize that it is not a reflection of our dedication to mission."
Although that will mean the post, already serving at what we're told is a bare bones level, will now be fragments.
North Country Congressman Bill Owens he understands how critical these employees are, but apparently not everyone does, paraphrasing Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann.
"What the Conservative wing of the Republican Party wanted to accomplish was a government shutdown and they've done it and they're happy about it," Rep. Owens said. "So from that perspective, that tells me those folks are not governing responsibly."
The union says the hardest part of all this is the fact that these 500 or so employees have already gone through furloughs this summer, having lost six days of work due to sequestration. It says it's just an unbelievable hardship being put on people who don't deserve it.
"There's pain to be had with that," Zeilnhofer said. "You can plan as much as you want for the eventualities, but at some point the rubber hits the road and your budget is impacted."
"I think the way in which the civilian workforce has been treated is abominable. In addition to the impact on those individuals, there's also a community impact," Rep. Owens added.
Owens say that kind of anxiety people have, keeps them from being able to spend money, hurting local economies even further.
Congressman Owens also said that once more soldiers become trained, the number of civilians furloughed could change dramatically.