Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, particpates in a rally against sequestration last spring. On Tuesday, O'Connor blamed the Tea Party for the federal government shutdown. Credit: Robert Cook
Tuesday was a difficult day for Paul O'Connor and the 2,000 Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers who were furloughed after the first federal government shutdown in 17 years.
"That (furlough) number is fluid and will remain fluid as the shutdown continues," said O'Connor, who serves as president of the Metal Trades Council. "There may be additional furloughs. But I don't have any concrete data about who or when."
The shipyard workers learned Tuesday morning after they reported for work they would be furloughed after Congress failed to avert the first federal government shutdown in 17 years.
O'Connor blames the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner for allowing the shutdown to happen.
Since 2010, O'Connor said Tea Party members have attacked federal employees and union members.
"We've had to endure vitriol from the Tea Party people and their hatred for federal employees," said O'Connor.
He said he spoke with shipyard commander Navy Capt. William Greene on Tuesday about how the shipyard will proceed to try and maintain the current workload of submarine overhauls.
"We can throw our schedules out the window right now," along with millions of dollars, O'Connor said.
He is also not optimistic the furloughs will be short-term given the current state of political gridlock in Washington.
While he said he understands why Republican lawmakers are trying to stop the Affordable Care Act, he said it doesn't mean Republicans have the right to "hold the nation hostage."
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard website's home page has some links to give furloughed workers information they need. O'Connor said furloughed workers are eligible for unemployment compensation one week after they are furloughed.