Flight attendant union calls for general strike if government shuts down again

The president of a union representing nearly 50,000 flight attendants is renewing calls for a general strike if lawmakers aren’t able to reach a funding deal on Friday to keep the government open.

Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told multiple news outlets, including Hill.TV that her union is planning demonstrations in major airports around the country on February 16 and she hopes all airline workers will take part. 

“We are calling on the public on February 16th,” Nelson said in a "Rising" interview with Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on Monday. “If we are in a day 36 of this shutdown for everyone to come to the airports.”

Nelson, who also called for a general strike during the partial government shutdown, argued that politics should not get in the way of airport safety and security. 

“Everyone come to the airports and demand that this Congress work for us and get politics out of our safety and security,” she said. 

Lawmakers have been adamant about avoiding another partial government shutdown, even though border security negotiations remain at an impasse. 

The previous record 35-day partial government shutdown cost the economy billions of dollars and left an estimated 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay. 

Nelson said she personally spoke with air traffic controllers who are still waiting for their due pay, and she warned that some may never get this compensation back if the government closes again. 

While the majority of federal workers have been able to collect lost pay, the Associated Press reported last week that hundreds of others across various agencies are waiting for back pay or have not received all of what they are owed. 

"Most of the air traffic controllers have not been made whole and will not be made whole until the March 5th check," Nelson told Hill.TV. "Now, if we go into a day 36th of a shutdown, that puts them into continued uncertainty and they might never get that back pay."

The Boston-based flight attendant added that forcing government employees to work without pay is “immoral,” and said that preventing such a move from happening again requires “bold action.”

“We have to ask, are we a country that’s willing to put up with people willing to work without pay — it’s immoral, it’s unjust and it requires really bold action,” she said.

—Tess Bonn

This story was updated at 6:56 p.m.