Sequestration could cause extensive unemployment among the federal work force, former Virginia governor Tim Kaine said at a campaign event Wednesday evening in Arlington.

Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine, left, with J. David Cox, national secretary and treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees , at Wednesday’s forum in Arlington. (Bill Burke/Page One)

“All the concern about sequestration falls on that we may lose private defense jobs,” Kaine said. “There are going to be all kinds of cuts affecting public employees for a couple of years and nobody’s gotten out of line about it. A job loss is a job loss.”

Those cuts could include furloughs and mass layoffs if federal agencies are required to immediately cut spending if sequestration takes effect on Jan. 2.

“Feds feel like they’re being attacked,” Kaine added.

To avert sequestration and possible furloughs or layoffs of federal employees, Kaine said there needed to be a mixture of revenue increases and budget cuts to help contain the nation’s rampant deficit.

He criticized Republican economic policies that have been inflexible and allow little room for budget compromise.

“If anyone thinks it’s okay to hold the economy hostage to gain an election should not be in office,” Kaine said to applause from the crowd.

Kaine spoke for an hour at the Fairlington Community Center in Arlington, at a forum attended by more 100 people. The forum was coordinated by the Federal-Postal Coalition of government employee unions as part of its new America Counts on Us campaign.

Federal employees and their pay have received extensive criticism in the debate over federal spending. Federal workers have not received a pay raise in more than two years.

“Government employees by and large are driven by the mission of the agency that they work for whether at the federal or local level,” said Bob Nicklas, political action director for AFGE. “They’re not doing it to get rich. They’re just dedicated to what they’re doing. And taking cheap shots at them does nobody [good], it’s a disservice to everybody, to the employees and diminishes the role government plays in our lives.”

Nicklas said Kaine’s opponent, former governor and senator George Allen, was invited to the event, but could not attend because of a scheduling conflict. Nicklas said the organization hopes to invite him to a forum before the election.

Patricia Maggi, a Food and Nutrition Service employee and a president of chapter 226 of the National Treasury Employees Union, who attended the forum, said many employees she works with are anxious at the looming cuts.

“I know my members are demoralized. They’re overworked and under-appreciated,” Maggi said. “If we have sequestration that will have a negative impact on a lot of people. I spend a lot of time holding hands with people worried about their jobs.”