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‘Picket’ planned outside Fort Hood Wednesday

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Posted: Saturday, March 16, 2013 4:30 am

Government employees will hold an “informational picket” outside Fort Hood’s main gate Wednesday, protesting recent budget cuts and looming furloughs that threaten to decrease their work hours and pay.

More than 100 people are expected to demonstrate near Fort Hood’s visitors center from noon to 1 p.m., said Cheryl Eliano, president of the local chapter of American Federation of Government Employees, a federal employee union representing 650,000 workers.

“We’re expecting a crowd, that’s for sure,” Eliano said, adding the event is part of a nationwide, AFGE-led demonstration of federal employees in New Orleans, Dallas, Fort Bliss and elsewhere.

She said federal employees can’t formally go on strike, so those participating in the picket will be doing so on their lunch breaks or off-duty time.

For weeks, civilian Department of Defense and other federal workers have been warned their working hours could be cut by as much as 20 percent in reaction to federal budget cuts, fueled heavily by sequestration, a series of cuts that began March 1.

Eliano said furlough notices have not yet been sent to Fort Hood employees, but they could be sent by the end of the month.

According to Army officials, sequestration will cost Fort Hood $291 million this year, and nearly 6,000 civilian employees could be furloughed. That’s on top of a hiring freeze implemented Army-wide in January. The Army also is severely cutting unit training in an effort to save money.

Eliano said she hopes the public will show its support of the picketers Wednesday. She added the event is described as an “informational picket” because it will shed light on how the cuts are doing more harm than good.

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