Air traffic controller union official says if shutdown continues there won’t be any workers left

A National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) official warned Tuesday that if the partial government shutdown continues for another few months, there won’t be any workers left because many cannot sustain working without due pay.

“If this thing were to drag on for two months, three months, maybe even six; what would the effects be for the American public?” Hill.TV’s Saagar Enjeti asked Eddie DeLisle, a regional vice president of NATCA Northwest Mountain region.

“There won’t be controllers left,” DeLisle said. 

“I, for one, could not sustain six months, a year without a paycheck — I don’t know too many people that could, so you’re looking at an air controller here that would resign,” he continued.

According to The Associated Press, roughly 10,000 air traffic controllers who work for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have been deemed essential and are expected to work without pay.

DeLisle, who is also an air traffic controller in the Portland area, said that the ongoing government shutdown might prompt newer employees, particularly those with student debt or living in an area with a higher cost of living, to seek work elsewhere.

“I imagine a lot of our newer hired air traffic controllers that might be in a position where they’re saddled with student loans or maybe they moved to a high cost of living area — they’re not going to be able to stay employed with the federal government if they’re not receiving any income,” he told Hill.TV.

DeLisle estimated there are about 2,000 air traffic controllers that are eligible to retire today and predicts that many might "walk out the door,” arguing there's no reason for them to stay if they’re not getting paid.

The NATCA on Friday filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over pay that has been halted as a result of the shutdown. The union alleges that the government has “unlawfully deprived” thousands of its members of pay “without due process.”

The union represents some 19,000 FAA employees across the country. This includes an estimated 14,000 air traffic controllers.

“We just need the shutdown to end and it needs to end today,” DeLisle said.

— Tess Bonn