Canadian air traffic controllers are carrying out a simple, but heartfelt gesture for their American counterparts – they’re buying them dinner amidst the U.S. government shutdown.
Air traffic controllers (ATC) in Moncton, N.B. and Gander, Nfld. sent pizza over to controllers manning the stations at the New York Air Traffic Control Center (ZNY), in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., on Friday night in support of their colleagues who are working unpaid as the American government’s partial shutdown drags into its fourth week.
A photo of a sign hung up in New York Center which said that 32 pizzas had been ordered by the Canadians was posted on Reddit by user PlatinumAero, whose real name is David Lombardo.
Lombardo, who runs the Facebook page ATC Memes and is a partner on the ATC merch website radarcontact.com, used to work at New York Center and continues to have close contact with air traffic controllers across the United States.
He told HuffPost Canada that the picture was sent to him from one of the controllers who is working at the ZNY during the shutdown. He explained that Canadian and American air traffic controllers often work closely together.
“New York Center is a radar facility that handles a large chunk of domestic and international air traffic. Part of the centre’s airspace lies up against Canadian airspace, so in other words, these controllers ‘hand off’ aircraft to one another, and work together to keep airplanes safe,” Lombardo explained.
The government shutdown is significantly affecting air traffic controllers – according to Lombardo, some have experienced shutdowns before, but never ones that lasted this long.
“Many controllers who work for the [Federal Administration Aviation] literally got paychecks that said $0.00, and many are doing overtime, working holidays, nights, weekends, and are in facilities that are already very short-staffed,” Lombardo said. “To add the stress of not knowing when they’re going to get paid, that has to be tough for many.”
Air traffic controllers in the Maritimes aren’t the only Canadians reaching out to their American counterparts.
Montreal Center sent Boston Center pizza, while Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport sent pizza to their counterparts in Burlington, Vt. and LaGuardia, N.Y.
Toronto’s area centre sent pizza to their colleagues at Cleveland Center, while Vancouver bought pizza for Seattle Center.
“In many cases these are radar control facilities buying for the neighbouring sector facility,” Lombardo said.
The outpouring of support isn’t ending yet though – Lombardo said Winnipeg Tower is sending dinner to Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport’s tower on Sunday night, and already covered Grand Forks’ lunch on Saturday.
In many cases these are radar control facilities buying for the neighbouring sector facility. David Lombardo
Another Reddit user commented on Lombardo’s thread and said they received an email from the Toronto union noting that the pizzas are an initiative taking place at centres across the country.
“As a gesture of solidarity with our fellow American controllers, we will be sending pizza to the Cleveland Center controllers for dinner. They are in the middle of the government shutdown and as of yesterday did not receive their pay cheques,” the email allegedly said. “All the ACC’s across the country will be buying pizzas for their adjacent centres.”
HuffPost Canada has reached out to the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association to confirm.
Lombardo, who lives in Long Island, N.Y., told HuffPost Canada the shutdown is pushing some people towards desperate measures like taking out loans, and that people have even messaged his ATC Memes page to ask him to share information on different loan programs.
Aviation unions and trade groups send open letter to Trump, Pelosi, McConnell: “This partial shutdown has already inflicted real damage to our nation’s aviation system and the impacts will only worsen over time” pic.twitter.com/xeiWSwerJr
– Ethan Klapper (@ethanklapper)January 10, 2019
Air traffic controllers haven’t been paid for their work the first two weeks of 2019, and many are urging U.S. President Donald Trump to bring an end to the government shutdown.
“This partial shutdown has already inflicted real damage to our nation’s aviation system and the impacts will only worsen over time,” a group of aviation organizations including the National Air Traffic Control Association wrote in an open letter sent to government officials.
“As the shutdown persists, excepted air traffic controllers and workers in technical operations, who operate and maintain safety-critical navigational aids, surveillance, and communications equipment, are performing highly skilled and safety-critical services without pay.”
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association also filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Friday for allegedly violating the Fifth Amendment by depriving controllers of “hard-earned compensation without the requisite due process.”
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