Richard Kennington is one of 9,583 Oregonians who work for the federal government, who did not get paid Friday, due to the partial shutdown.
“Today was the first day that we did not get paid.”
Now on day 21, the current government shutdown has tied the record for the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
As a result, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association is now suing the federal government on behalf of its members.
Kennington, who has worked as an air traffic controller at Portland Tower since 1999, told FOX 12, “We’re taught since day one that you must not let personal issues interrupt your focus. you have to be 100 percent dialed in.”
But, according to him, remaining focused is hard to do these days.
“When people don’t know if they’re going to be able to meet their financial obligations, it has an impact on your psyche,” Kennington said. “One of our controllers just had a baby today. And, that should be a happy and glorious event. However, she does not know how she’s going to pay her out of pocket expenses.”
And, he told FOX 12, the government shutdown will impact more than just federal workers.
“The national air space system is grossly understaffed, we’re at a 30-year low.”
According to Kennington, the academy that trains new federal air traffic controllers is closed during the shutdown and the NATCA had to cancel its bi-annual safety training scheduled for this week.
“We are the safest, most efficient air space in the world. But, as we do this stop and go funding, as we fail to modernize, and we fail to staff our system, it has a compounding and insidious effect.”
The NATCA is now suing the federal government.
“We feel the government has violated the fair labor standards act.”
Kennington, who traveled to Washington D.C. this week on behalf of the NATCA, said representatives from both Washington and Oregon voted to pass a bill temporarily funding the FAA and other agencies, amid the government shutdown.
If HR 267 passes, Kennington claims the academy would reopen, modernization projects would restart and employees would once again be paid.
Although it was approved by the House, it is still awaiting senate approval. In the meantime, Kennington said air traffic controllers will continue to work for the duration of the shutdown.
Data shows the impact of the shutdown on federal workers in Oregon is being felt in both urban and rural areas.
The five counties with the most unpaid federal workers right now are Multnomah, Lane, Deschutes, Jackson and Marion County, according to the Oregon Department of Employment.
Officials say 3,335 federal employees did not get a paycheck today in Multnomah County; Lane County came in second place with 580 unpaid federal workers.
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