Air traffic controllers frustrated by government shutdown

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi and U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, Democrats from Long Island, met with staffers at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, also known as New York TRACON, on Monday morning where more than 250 employees missed their first paycheck because of the government shutdown.

"We are being held, for lack of a better word, hostage to what's going on," Randy Brown, the national airspace operational manager, said.

Some workers feel they're being used as bargaining chips in the standoff between President Donald Trump and Congress.

New York TRACON, which guides and monitors all traffic going in and out of airports including Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and MacArthur, is said to be the busiest in the country. But right now officials say the facility has more than a hundred unfilled positions.

"How can we expect these workers to pay their mortgage or rent, buy groceries, put gas in their cars if they have pay stubs that have zero dollars," Rice said.

"We're trying to pull the cover off and show people that there are real-life impacts of this shutdown," Suozzi said. 

Air traffic controller Kevin Maney said that approximately 130 full-time air traffic controllers are working without pay. Many of them rely on dual family incomes and worry about depleting their savings.

"Now we have air traffic controllers dropping their kids off at daycare when they themselves aren't getting paid," said Maney, the president of National Air Traffic Controllers Association for New York TRACON.

The FAA wouldn't comment on workers' salaries. In a statement, the FAA thanked employees working to keep the traveling public and skies safe and reiterated safety is the agency's top priority.

"We are allocating resources based on risk assessment to meet all safety-critical functions," the FAA said in a statement. "If we identify an issue, we recall inspectors and engineers to address it."

Suozzi and Rice said that this week they will support another series of appropriation bills that would reopen the government and that they will continue putting pressure on Senate Republicans to take up the bills including one that would reopen the FAA and back pay the workers.