The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers is suing the Trump administration on behalf of thousands of union members who have not been paid during the prolonged confrontation over the financing of the border wall between the president and congressional Democrats.
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The complaint, filed in a federal court in Washington, states that the administration violated the Fifth Amendment by depriving workers of wages without due process and by violating fair labor rules by not paying at least the minimum wage to employees. air traffic controllers and to those exempted. leave during the Government judgment. The prosecution also claims that the FAA did not pay the union members overtime quickly, which the union says is also a violation of the regulations.
An airport employee reports an airplane pilot on an undated photo.
The shutdown is particularly hard on US air traffic controllers because their numbers are already at their lowest for 30 years, according to NATCA. The number of fully certified air traffic controllers, as they are called, is up to 10,500 – the union would ideally like to have 2,000 more. And about 2,000 of them are expected to retire this year.
The age of mandatory retirement for controllers is 56 years old.
Air traffic controllers are generally required to carry out their extremely stressful work of guiding aircraft through the country's airspace throughout the unpaid stop.
"It's an unreasonable thing to think that in a profession like ours where safety in the heavens is of the utmost importance, we would not be paid," said Jim Marinitti, Miami Air Traffic Controller.
More than 200 people were in Washington on Thursday afternoon to attend a rally organized by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and leaders of the aviation community on the subject.
Those responsible for ensuring the safety of the American skies, with or without pay, had a clear message to convey: every day of the shutdown, the aviation system is made a little less safe.
"I can not predict what would happen to the system if we were to continue for months or even years," said Rob Hoss, a Tampa-based controller, referring to President Donald Trump's suggestion that the closure could last as long. "No one can understand this prejudice that would be caused to the flying public if it had to go further."
While the shutdown is imminent, maintenance, inspection, training and modernization programs are deferred. Many FAA security and support staff can not go to work.
"While we do our daily chores, a lot of things elude us," said Richard Kennington, controller of the Portland International Airport Tower, at ABC News. "There are a lot of insidious things that the flying public does not see that does not happen."
ABC Theodore Christine Theodorou and Nate Luna contributed to this report.