Union leaders representing air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants hold grave concerns for the nation’s air safety as the partial government shutdown enters Day 33.
A joint statement released Wednesday by the presidents of the National Air Traffic Controller’s Association (NATCA), Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA warned of the incalculable risk to the safety and security of airlines and travelers.
“This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight,” the union leaders said. “In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.”
Urging “Congress and the White House to take all necessary steps to end this shutdown immediately,” the union leaders said that they found it “unconscionable that aviation professionals are being asked to work without pay and in an air safety environment that is deteriorating by the day.”
Speaking to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said that he had not intended “to put fear into anybody” when the statement was issued but that his concerns were both deep and real.
He warned that air traffic controllers “in many of our busy facilities across the country” were currently working six 10-hour days a week due to a “staffing crisis” that has been exacerbated by the shutdown.
“The government needs to open now,” he said. “Our national airspace system is an economic engine for this country. $1.5 trillion in gross domestic product yearly, 11 million well-paying jobs, and it moves packages and people from all over the world. We cannot allow this to be reduced by 50 percent. It’s going to affect everyone from Wall Street to Main Street.”
Earlier this month, air traffic controllers became the third group of federal employees to sue the Trump administration over the shutdown. The NATCA filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order against the federal government, alleging it had violated the Fifth Amendment by depriving controllers of “hard-earned compensation without the requisite due process.”
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