Hundreds of San Diego workers rally to save jobs from defense budget cuts

Largest local rally to fight sequestration to date

SAN DIEGO - Hundreds of workers in the maritime industry rallied at Cesar Chavez Park on Friday to save their jobs and protest the federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

"This is a call to action. Stand up! Stand up and take action," said Derry Pence, the president of the Port of San Diego Ship Repair Association.

Employee Gustavo Alarcon, who helps maintain Navy ships, said cuts to the defense budget would affect him personally.

"I've got four girls, I've got a wife, [I've] got bills to pay," Alarcon said.

Alarcon also said the cuts would also national security.

"If the ship is not ready, [then] what's going to happen?" Alarcon said.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner spent years in the federal government, and he said he knows how slow it works.

"I like to say that Congress is dumb, but it's not stupid. I think they'll probably, at the last second, come up with a solution that will not cause an incredibly deeper recession in our economy," Filner said.

According to numbers released by the San Diego Maritime Jobs Coalition, San Diego could lose nearly $400 million in loss of ship and aircraft maintenance projects, demolition projects and a delay of military construction projects.

At least 5,000 maritime industry jobs are also in danger. Temporary workers could be eliminated and at least 22 furlough days would be implemented for civilian workers supporting the Navy, according to the coalition.

"If you want to lose 15 pounds, you don't do it by cutting off your leg," said Rep. Scott Peters. "We call it sequestration, but really it's an amputation."

During Friday's rally, San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez brought his brother up to the podium -- one of the thousands who would lose his job.

"[Congress] sometimes forgets because they're stuck in Washington in their bubble. They forget what this is about. It's about average day people that are struggling," Alvarez said.

Peters also said Customs and Border Protection would lose more than $900 million if these cuts become a reality.

The deadline for an agreement is March 1.

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