Aviation workers: Second shutdown could be more dangerous

By Lori Artani | Washington Post

Flight attendants, teachers and federal aviation safety workers on Monday warned Congress that a second government shutdown could be catastrophic for a system still struggling to repair the damage from the longest shutdown in the nation’s history.

“We’re here to let the American public know that there was no end to that shutdown,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO. “The shutdown has continued. The harm has continued. The programs for safety and security that continue to run and help to make us safer have not been fully restored.”

Nelson spoke at a news conference at Reagan National Airport, where she and other labor leaders called on budget negotiators to stop punishing federal workers for their inability to reach a deal.

At a time when many federal workers are still trying to recover financially and emotionally from more than a month of not working or working without pay, the threat of a second shutdown could have even more dire consequences for aviation safety, they said.

“It is wrong to use workers and their families and the flying public as pawns in a political game,” said Sara Steffens, secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America. “We saw firsthand and many of our members saw firsthand during the last shutdown how dangerous it is to furlough aviation safety officers and withhold their paychecks.”

The warnings came as lawmakers continued efforts to revive budget negotiations that broke down over the weekend over border security issues, including money for President Trump’s long-sought border wall.

Even if negotiators are able to reach an agreement, the House and Senate must pass identical spending bills that Trump would need to sign into law to avoid a partial shutdown set to begin Saturday.

Meanwhile, as union officials and congressional negotiators worked to end the impasse, other lawmakers were working to shield the nation’s aviation system in the event that a future shutdown does occur.

Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Rick Larsen, D-Wash., introduced legislation Friday that would protect the Federal Aviation Administration from future shutdowns by using revenue from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to fund FAA programs and personnel.

Revenue from the trust fund comes from a variety of sources including taxes on domestic air tickets, commercial fuel, general aviation gasoline and cargo.

DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has scheduled a hearing Wednesday on the legislation and the impact of the 35-day shutdown on the aviation industry.

An estimated 800,000 federal employees were furloughed or working without pay during the shutdown. That included more than 30,000 Transportation Security Administration officers, air traffic controllers and other FAA employees.

Nelson and others urged the public to lobby their representatives in Congress. And as part of the effort to mobilize the public, they announced several rallies scheduled for Saturday should a second shutdown occur. Events are scheduled in Houston, Chicago and Honolulu.

“We’re calling on the American public – if Congress chooses chaos and chooses to put our industry into turmoil, we’re calling on the American public to join …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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