Trish Gilbert, Congress, Executive Vice President discussed on The Takeaway
President Mike Perron speaking at a rally at the capitol building in DC last week since then furloughed Federal Aviation Specter's have been picketing outside of airports and air. Traffic controllers have also been protesting. They even started handing out flyers yesterday about how the shutdown makes flying unsafe at airports serving Atlanta. Dallas Raleigh n Minneapolis. This is the takeaway, I'm tansy Nevada. Pictures. Trish Gilbert is the executive vice president of the national air traffic controllers association, Trish, how is it going for air traffic controllers today. Well, I they're feeling a lot of anxiety a lot of uncertainty, and it's a profession where you need one hundred percent of your focus one hundred percent of the time on the task at hand, which is ensuring the safety of flight. And unfortunately, when they're stuck in the middle of a political game or swore somebody's trying to be a winner. And it turns out those that are losers are the people just trying to do their jobs, and that's the people I represent they are they're going to work there, providing the service that they've all all proudly want to do unfortunately as they worked during the holidays, Christmas and New Year's weekends nights. They say they woke up if they're not already work with zero in their paycheck for the work that they've done since. Beginning of the year one paycheck. I think most are makes them nervous that it has gotten to this point. I think the real concern comes as uncertainty and win. The next one's going to come. How long will this last the months and years statement has just caused a lot of anxiety in a workforce that doesn't need to have that distraction? They need to be focused on the job that they they really proud to do tell us a little bit about the lawsuit. What are the goals of the suit? We know that congress approved a measure to offer back pay to furloughed employees. But as you said air traffic controllers, the check is showing zero dollars. So what is the lawsuit and what are the goals? Correct. You know, the back pay is I don't think those that are going to work. There's I I know that they're going to get paid. They realize they're going to get paid. They just don't know when those that are furloughed and sent home and allowed to work that was you know, uncertainty there, and so congress did pass that provision. It hasn't been signed into law by the president. So there is a little comfort there for those that were forced home. But the lawsuit is based on our what we believe violation of the fifth amendment. Which is there was no due process. When property was kept from the people, and we believe pay is their property once they've performed the work. They are do that pay. Well, and obviously there was you mentioned the fifth amendment. There was an op Ed in the New York Times yesterday that encouraged TSA workers to strike, we're one of the things they brought up there in this op Ed was that these workers have a moral right to strike because of the things that you are pointing out that they've been forced out of the jobs that that. That they have been hired to do. Well, I can't speak to TSA and and the conditions. They're working under imagine. They're very similar. I know my workforce. And I know that to them this is not just a job. They report to every day. And I'm not saying that's the case with TSA. I'm just saying that my members and proud to do the work that they do for this country. It's five percent of the gross domestic product for this country is an economic engine for this country. And they proudly do it. They they're aviation professionals that that believe in flight and what what flight brings to this country moving the military through the airspace. Passengers general aviation business aviation and most importantly, air, ambulance. They they know they need to be to work. So people can get to where they need to be. So this country can keep moving forward. I understand Trish. I'm wondering if because of all of those things because of the dedication that you're outlining because of the fact that these folks have not been paid. Because of the fifth amendment it caused that you mentioned and also this this idea of a moral right to strike. I'm wondering does that push the union any closer to approving a strike? Oh, absolutely. Not absolutely not we we would never endorse or condone any kind of action taken that that would take our work and our skills away from the task at hand. Absolutely. Not trish. What's the breaking point? Then I think that's going to be different for every individual. You know, those that are in the lower pay scales. That are not certified completely in the profession might look for employment. Elsewhere, especially in those living in high cost living areas like Oakland, New York, Washington, d c southern California. Those individuals will probably be the first to look for other other things I don't know how long different people are going to be able to go without a paycheck. And but you can't expect it to last months and years the people won't. They'll individually look for other employment. We already know of people that are looking for other employment, and we already know of people that are working second jobs at this point, which is really concerning because we are already thirty year low in staffing. Meaning we have fewer fully certified controllers in we then we should about two thousand and they're working already mandatory overtime before this even occurred. So now, they're working longer and now not just longer providing air traffic control services, but driving Uber's before and after their shift this is concerning to us, and it should be concerning to the American public as well. And you also mentioned the staffing shortages there is a shortage of air traffic controllers one in five today are eligible to retire. Does that put an additional pressure on you all to kind of figure out what to do is there is there a question of trying to find new air traffic controllers? Are you looking at training for the folks who as you as you said, you know, people can't go. Oh, weeks and weeks and weeks without getting paid. So you could I think see more folks leaving the industry this is going to be long lasting again. We were already short-staffed now they've closed our academy in Oklahoma City, which is where our new hired individual start their career. They start their training. It takes two to three years to certify as a controller. So it's not something you can do overnight. It takes some time. And then you mentioned one in five or eligible to retire and out of frustration. They they they might actually do that. And we're very concerned about that. So we will be feeling the effects of this long. Well after the government does open, but we certainly it's not sustainable where we're at. Now, we're really going to have to work very very hard to focus on training and hiring. Once we get out of this. Otherwise, the system will start to fill capacity issues, the past, you know, those that fly will start to feel the delays in the system when we're not able to staff our radar rooms in our towers across the country. I think we're already starting to see evidence of some of that with just. Social media photos and things that people are posting, you know, historically. I mean there was a strike in one thousand nine hundred eighty one of air traffic controllers that forced the country. I guess to understand what their concerns were. And what they did. Do you see any parallels with that strike one thousand nine hundred one to what's happening today? It's it's completely different that was a disagreement between the union and their employer. This happens to be a disagreement between an administration and congress and has nothing to do with aviation. So we're kind of stuck in the middle. The members that I represent aren't partisan. They aviation's not partisan, and they don't have an opinion on this political argument. That's occurring. They do expect their leaders those that work for us in government to figure this out. We expect them to get to. Yes. Not to get to an impasse. And it stay at this impasse. If there was. Any kind of indication that they were getting closer together instead of further apart. I think our members could start to relax and focus better on their job. I feel like this would be a redundant question. But I'm going to ask it anyway, where do air traffic controllers go from here. Given the standstill that you've outlined, and I think that we're all experiencing witnessing this feels like it could be a pretty severe blow to the industry. It is it could it could cause irreparable harm and nobody wants that navy. We have the aviation industry is completely in line with opening the government and not hurting the system any more than they already then it's already been heard. But where do we go from here? You know, we're talking to the media as much as we can where at airports across the country, sixty ports our air traffic controllers at a furloughed or they're going before or after work, and they're handing leaflets to the flying public taking our message to them. So they understand that the shutdown does affect the entire country. It does not just affect federal employees the ripple effect to those that depend on the federal government being at full capacity there also impacted and and that's concerning as well. Eventually we'll fill it throughout. But right now, our our membership is taking that message to the airport. We've been on the hill as well meeting with our members of congress, they're bringing their stories to them their concerns to them, and we're asking them to act we're asking them to in the shutdown today. It's just unreasonable to expect that people would go for months and years to work without receiving a paycheck, Trish Gilbert is executive vice president of the national.