RI air traffic controllers feeling effects of partial government shutdown

With the partial government shutdown now in its second week, federal workers around the country including air traffic controllers out of TF Green Airport are really feeling the effects.

President Donald Trump had his first meeting on Wednesday with Democrats since the stalemate last month.

Mr. Trump is holding firm for $5 billion to help build a border wall. The president said he will keep the government shut down for as long as it takes to get the money.

With the shutdown 12 days in, millions of federal employees are either working without pay or being asked not to show up for work.

Air traffic controllers out of TF Green are anxious to see the shutdown end.

“It is very demoralizing,” said Juan Ledesma, an air traffic controller for three years out of Rhode Island. “You miss one or two paychecks and it’s not easy to pay your rent on time. We have a young workforce. A lot of people have young kids.”

Ledesma said it’s been tough for all federal workers, not knowing when the next time he will get paid.

Peter Geddis is the TF Green representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers’ Association, who said many employees are left without any answers and are continuing to ask questions.

“I hear a lot of people worried about getting their next check,” Geddis said. “Making sure they have their bills, bills are going to be coming in from Christmas.”

Around 3,000 employees, many in New England, are being asked to stay home and now concern is mounting if they will get paid for that forced time off.

New England Regional Vice President of NATCA Mick Devine said more concern is for those looking to retire, those switching insurance providers, and those who may have to pay child support.

Devine said there’s a staffing crisis with air traffic controllers, and with a shutdown, it has lasting effects.

“We’ve got all the trainees called back from Oklahoma City. They shut down the academy,” Devine said.

Geddis said that problem will also linger at TF Green.

“We had three people in [the academy] that had to be sent back,” Geddis added. “So now they might have to restart their training. So now it’s created a ripple effect into our system.”

All three agree that although the border wall may be important to some people, their pay should not be affected due to an issue that has nothing to do with them.

Devine concluded that lawmakers should take a look at how air traffic controllers are paid, and make a change.

“[We need a] stable, predictable funding stream,” Devine said. “It’s this stop and go funding we’ve been in for years.”