Local union concerned about government shutdown

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Whether the U.S. government will be open for business after midnight is still being debated. But there is no debating the importance of federal dollars flowing to Redstone Arsenal and what those dollars mean to the local economy.

Abner Merriweather is the president of the American Federation of Government Employees and represents more than 11,000 federal employees on Redstone Arsenal. He said Redstone employees have weathered furloughs and shutdowns over the years, but right now they have no guidance from the Army about what to expect. And lost work means lots of lost dollars.

"If there is a shutdown, the cost would be $7 million per day in salaries," explained Merriweather.

It's a direct economic impact.

There are a lot of employees, who, like single moms for example, they have daycare, they still have to pay daycare, whether or not the furlough, you get paid or not," said Merriweather.

There's still plenty of work to be done and Merriweather said the workers aren't looking for a break.

"No, they want to be at work. We've got some people who are really dedicated at supporting our soldiers in the field," said Merriweather. "I don't think they want to be at home, doing nothing, and knowing that we've got soldiers in the field to be protected." He added that all of Redstone's roughly 25,000 workers should be able to contact their first line supervisor about their work status.

 

 

Merriweather said the run-up to the shutdown is being handled differently here than in the past.

"Normally, when you have a shutdown or talk about a shutdown, in advance, the Department of the Army would give you a proper notice, and for employees to sign. There's no guidance or anything like that. So the employees are in the dark.

But they may not be surprised. There were government shutdowns in 1995 and again in 2013. There have been furloughs and threats of shutdowns. Merriweather said workers are learning to adjust.

"This has happened so many times, the employees ... it's sort of a norm to them. So, in the past they have gotten reimbursed, so they have not lost anything in the past, so it's not a big scare to them, as it was several years ago.