WASHINGTON –Thousands of Federal Aviation Administration employees who are vital to the safe operation of the nation’s air traffic system have been forced to stay home without pay because of political infighting that is putting the flying public at risk, leaders from the nation’s largest federal employee union said today.
About 4,000 FAA employees were furloughed over the weekend after Congress failed to approve a stopgap funding measure that expired at midnight Friday. Efforts to harmonize the House and Senate funding bills collapsed after Republicans added several controversial provisions to the proposed compromise, including a measure that would make it harder for airline and railroad employees to unionize.
“These workers have been thrown under the bus because of political infighting that has nothing to do with their jobs,” AFGE National President John Gage said. “It’s unconscionable that some lawmakers would put the flying public at risk just to score political points.”
More than 30 employees at the FAA’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute in Oklahoma City have been furloughed, said Greg Brooks, president of AFGE Local 2282, which represents about 1,400 employees at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Logistics Center there.
In addition, at least a dozen facilities and engineering workers have been furloughed at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, AFGE Local 200 President Robert Challender said.
“It doesn’t matter if we had just one member affected. It’s a member affected by poor policy,” Brooks said.
Employees at the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute perform vital research to ensure pilots are medically fit to fly, Brooks said. Employees were instructed by their supervisors not to take their work home with them, so the flying public could be in danger until the employees are back on the job.
“One person can make a difference in people’s lives doing this kind of work,” Brooks said.