Government Shutdown Sparks Conflict At Offutt

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The collateral damage from the government shutdown is stirring-up some debate in the metro. Civilian workers at Offutt Air Force Base are questioning the manner in which furloughs have been handled.

Three thousand civilian employees work at Offutt and 2,000 of them are off the job because of the shutdown.

Julie Sheehan is president of AFGE Local 1486, the union that represents them, and she says, "It appears there's been random sampling of who they're going to furlough and who they're not. In many cases we have offices that have 15 civilians and they just chose three to furlough."

The union agrees that the root of the problem lies in Washington where decision and indecision are costing civilian employees their jobs but the union blames local leaders for the bottom line here.

"Offutt management and leadership has not involved the union. That is especially illegal in many different levels," Sheehan said.

Offutt leadership disagrees. They say who goes and who stays is thought out.

Col. Greg Guilot said, "We're able to accept a small number of civilians. Those that deal directly with saving life, property or conducting missions directly related to national security. For instance, the fire department is all civilian-manned. We're able to keep the firefighters on so we can respond to any emergency on the base or anything to do with our flying operations."

Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry says these furloughs shouldn't be happening.

He told us, "Omaha has so many people that have been furloughed right now and illegally furloughed and they need to know we're fighting to get them back in the job, that we had a bill and the president signed it and it said civilians don't need to be furloughed. So these are just games being played with people's lives and that's just wrong."

Union leaders at Offutt say they plan to take legal action at some point.

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