Union: Pentagon cuts would hurt military families and workers

Union: Pentagon cuts would hurt military families and workers
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The Pentagon's plan to slash funding to support military grocery stores will hurt military families and middle-class workers, a federal labor union said in a letter to lawmakers this week. 

The letter, sent March 18 from the American Federation of Government Employees-AFL-CIO to lawmakers, urged them to reject the Pentagon's proposal to cut $300 million next year from the stores — known as commissaries — where military members and families buy food at reduced prices. 

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The proposal is just one of the ways the Pentagon is proposing to pare down its budget at a time of fiscal constraints. 

"The cut is a badly-disguised attempt to put the commissaries into a death spiral," wrote the union's legislative and political director, Beth Moten, to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services military personnel subcommittees. 

"Such a cut would force commissaries to reduce their hours and days of operation and increase costs for important goods and services, particularly at more remote locations. Commissaries would no longer be a convenient bargain for military families," she wrote. 

The letter also urges lawmakers to reject recommendations by a military-benefits reform commission to consolidate the grocery stores with military retail stores known as exchanges, and convert commissary employees to "non-appropriated fund" status. 

Moten argued those recommendations would lead to reduced pay, benefits and labor protections for its workers — who are often military spouses. 

"The Commission's proposal would hurt the military families it ostensibly wants to protect," she wrote. 

" 'Walmartizing' the [commissary] workforce in order to generate fake and punitive economies at the expense of American workers is wrong," she added. 

Moten argued that support for the commissaries, which amounts to less than 0.3 % of the entire Pentagon's budget, provides military families with "inexpensive but essential goods and services." 

"The commissaries and exchanges are an earned benefit treasured by military families and an important contributor to their quality of life," Moten said. 

"No programs provide more bang for the buck," she said.