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October 3, 2013

Shutdown idles more than 3,000 workers at TACOM

Hundreds also sent home from Selfridge, where all but critical flying missions cancelled

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — About 3,000 civilian employees at the U.S. Army Detroit Arsenal in Warren, home of the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, were sent home Oct. 1 when the federal government closed shop amid a budget impasse.

“I don’t have the exact data. Based on my knowledge, the large majority of people seem like they’re being furloughed,” said Paul Veselenak, a contract specialist and president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1658, which represents about 5,000 civilian government employees at TACOM, Harrison Township’s Selfridge Air National Guard Base and other facilities. “It’s well over 50 percent; closer to 80 to 85 percent.”

Veselenak said those not sent home when the fiscal year ended Oct. 1 would work without pay until Congress reaches a deal.

He said morale among the union’s members was “very low” on the heels of the shutdown and this summer’s federal budget sequestration that already furloughed employees for six work days. 

Veselenak said government employees have also seen wages frozen and could see compensation stay the same or drop as the sequester that began in March plays out over the next decade.

“It’s taking its toll. Morale is suffering,” Veselenak said. “We’re losing people, and we’re losing very good people. Our people are middle class people. They’re not rich.

“In a very real sense, it’s hurting our ability to do our job and support the soldiers,” Veselenak said. “We’ve been having constant crises. It’s been wearing people’s morale down.”

The AFGE Local 1658 website encouraged union members to call their elected representative in Congress and to urge them to end the shutdown and the government-wide sequester.

At Selfridge, 650 civilian workers and 32 military technicians employed by the 127th Wing were sent home Oct. 1 after they conducted what was described as an orderly shutdown of operations. A minimal number of personnel — firefighters, security staff and air traffic controllers — remained on duty at the base.

About 150 active duty members of the 127th Wing remained on duty at Selfridge after the shutdown Oct. 1.

The Selfridge Base Exchange and the base golf course, both of which operate on revenue they generate, remained open.

 The 127th Wing’s “drill weekend” Oct. 5-6 was cancelled as a result of the shutdown and most flying operations at Selfridge were grounded until further notice. Critical missions, including U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue operations, will continue as needed.

Staff Writer Julie Snyder contributed to this report.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.