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Local air traffic controllers pleading for travelers to care about government shutdown

SEATAC -  Garret Wilkerson never thought he would be at SeaTac Airport pleading for people to care about the government shutdown.

“If you have time to help an air traffic controller here in Seattle we haven’t been paid for 26 days,” Wilkerson said.

Busy travelers at SeaTac airport pass by without even a glance.

But finally someone stops to listen.

“A lot of people starting to be impacted,” Wilkerson said.

A woman who stopped said she supports him and Wilkerson asked her to contact her local congressman.

Wilkerson says the government shutdown isn’t about politics, it’s about his family’s livelihood.

“We are not taking sides we just want to end the shutdown,” Wilkerson said.

He is one of thousands of air traffic controllers who didn’t receive their last paycheck. Wilkerson says he just pulled out a $5,000 loan from a credit union allowing him to borrow the money with no interest for 90 days.

“There is a human impact for me, people are worried about taking care of their families,” Wilkerson said.

Federal law prohibits air traffic controllers like Wilkerson from striking meaning your flights will not be affected but air traffic controllers say there are still long term safety concerns.

“The effects of this shutdown may not be realized today in the immediate time frame but technology projects are being delayed, hiring is being delayed,” NATCA Northwest Mountain Region Regional Vice President Eddie DeLisle said.

DeLisle says it takes 2 to 6 years to train people to be an air traffic controller meaning a hiring and training freeze now could have long term impact.

“The staffing shortages we are already in is exacerbated exponentially, it means 6 day work weeks, 10 hour days it means fatigued air traffic controllers,” DeLisle said.

 

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