The union that represents nearly 50,000 private-sector flight attendants has instructed members to stage sit-ins at congressional offices until the government shutdown is over, the union’s president said Friday, as the nation’s aviation system has come under increasing strain from the lapse in federal funding.
“I’m asking them to stay there until the government is open,” Sara Nelson, international president of the Assn. of Flight Attendants, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
In a video released Friday morning, Nelson asked flight attendants to “find your nearest congressional office, grab some friends, and go sit in that office and demand that lawmakers open the government immediately, and do nothing else until that is done. Our jobs are on the line here, and so is the rest of America.”
The announcement came shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration began restricting flights into New York’s LaGuardia Airport due to a staffing shortage of air-traffic controllers. Air-traffic controllers are among the workers who are not receiving paychecks during the partial shutdown of the federal government but are required to work anyway.
It also came as rumors and reports spread that congressional leaders and President Trump had reached a tentative agreement to temporarily reopen the government, meaning action may not be necessary. The announcement from the flight attendants’ union adds to the pressure on Trump and congressional leaders to formalize such a deal.
Public-sector and private-sector unions have been giving increasingly dire warnings over the last week about the safety effects of forcing federal air traffic controllers and security officers to work without pay since the shutdown began Dec. 22. They and many other federal employees missed their second paycheck in a row Friday.
“We are beyond the normal safety thresholds and it is becoming increasingly dangerous to fly. The American flying public is imperiled,” John Samuelsen, the international president of the Transport Workers Union, said in a statement. “The chaos of this shutdown has severely eroded the layers of safety protocols that keep our aviation system safe.”
Members of the Transport Workers Union include aircraft mechanics, airport ramp workers, baggage handlers and flight attendants.
Nelson asked flight attendants at airports and other public places to “talk with everyone that you know and help them understand that as this unravels more and more, and days go on, it will be hard to return.”
Matt Pearce is a national reporter for The Times. Follow him on Twitter at @mattdpearce.