May 25, 2019
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Union leader at Maine shipyard bristles at Trump’s pay freeze idea

Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Mark Vigliotta, president of Federal Employees Metal Trades Council Local 836 based at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, left, is seen with Seacoast Shipyard Association Chairman John Joyal in this Seacoast Online file photo. Vigliotta was critical of a proposal by President Donald Trump to freeze the pay of 2 million federal workers, including some at the shipyard.

After announcing ahead of Labor Day that he would freeze the salaries of nearly 2 million federal workers, including those at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery and Pease Air National Guard Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, President Donald Trump said he is “studying” the matter after outcry among unions, Democrats and some Republicans.

New Hampshire elected officials chirped back at Trump’s proposed pay freeze last week, where he cited “serious economic conditions” that prevented the country from affording the raises. The 2.1 percent raise for civilian federal workers would have gone into effect in Jan. 2019 without presidential interference.

Mark Vigliotta, president of Federal Employees Metal Trades Council Local 836 based at the shipyard, said Trump is “definitely trying to deal with his budget on the backs of working men and women for the federal government.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the pay freeze “a significant blow to civilian workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Pease Air National Guard Base.”

“It’s disingenuous for the Trump administration to justify this policy because of ballooning deficits which are largely the result of recent Republican tax cuts for the wealthy,” she said. “Asking shipyard and Pease employees to pay for these tax cuts is disgraceful. I urge the president to reverse this decision immediately.”

Jim Cole | AP
Jim Cole | AP
In this AP file photo, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter D-N.H., speaks during a debate in Manchester, N.H.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, has joined congressional delegates of both parties from the state and Maine in strongly advocating for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employees in the past and recently visited the yard. She said federal employees have faced “unacceptable attacks from this administration,” citing attempts to limit collective bargaining rights and undermine working conditions.

“This latest attack on the hardworking people who serve our country must be stopped,” Shea-Porter said. “The men and women who work at the shipyard and Pease Air National Guard Base, for example, are patriots. To freeze their pay, and to use budget deficits as the excuse, after giving massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations is a betrayal of those who are serving our country.”

Shea-Porter said the pay freeze would harm “hardworking people and their families, while making it harder for the shipyard to recruit new employees, which it badly needs.” The freeze also impacts military readiness, she said, and is bad for national security.

In May, Trump also signed a series of executive orders affecting federal workers by reducing the power of unions, and making it more difficult for union heads to conduct regular business. Since, Trump has been at odds with many union heads, including a Labor Day tweet attacking AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka.

Vigliotta said the men and women of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are “disappointed” they may not receive their promised raises. He’s been in touch will delegates down in Washington, D.C. “to see what we can do.”

“If we get Republican support, we can probably override it,” he said. “But it definitely puts a sour mood on everybody’s plate. (Trump) gave a big tax break to the big corporations, but then wants the federal workers to try and make up the difference.”

Representatives from Pease Air National Guard Base did not immediately respond to request for comment.

On Sept. 1, Trump retweeted a post from Virginia Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart, saying Trump “can” and “will” fix the pay freeze proposal, indicating he may be rethinking his initial proclamation.

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