Virginia’s Democratic U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner stood shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with leaders of an array of airline safety unions at Reagan National Airport today to join in the warning that “America is less safe” due to the extended impacts of the federal government shutdown.
As over 800,000 furloughed federal workers face going through a second pay period without a paycheck, “A layer of safety is now missing,” said a leader of the Professional Aviation Safety workers, “the system is beginning to unravel.”
Asked if the shutdown has made the nation more vulnerable to the threat of a major disaster, Sen. Kaine fired back, “This is a disaster now. This is a threat now. If something happened that caused 800,000 federal workers to suddenly leave their jobs, that would be declared a national disaster immediately. But this is what is happening.”
The head of the Air Traffic Controllers stressed that it is still safe to fly, but that redundancies are being cut back, and with only 10,500 air traffic controllers now, a 30-year low, if any significant number leave or can no longer work, “To maintain safety, we will have to slow down the system, and that will slow down the economy.”
“There are chinks in our safety armor now, we are not able to mitigate some risks right now,” he said.
Sen. Warner said that President Trump’s shutdown “is endangering our population,” and if he gets his way now, “He’ll do it again whenever there’s something he wants. He has no empathy to any workers now as during his private sector career when his projects left a trail of disaster after the fact.” He said to resolve this current crisis requires steps to make sure there is never a shutdown like this again.
The head of the Flight Attendants Union underscored, “We’re less safe today,” and she said if Trump won’t act, then “I am calling on conscientious members of the Republican caucus to do this if Sen. McConnell won’t.”
“These federal workers are asking, ‘Why is my country doing this to me?,'” Kaine stressed, saying that he was at a downtown D.C. location yesterday where chefs were providing free meals “and the line was all the way around the block. It was like a bread line from the Great Depression,” he said. “How can this president be inflicting such a wound that is hurting so many people?”