• Carolyn Maloney

Airport workers in shutdown dilemma

Hundreds if not thousands of workers at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports are being affected by the federal government shutdown, with so-called non-essential federal employees being furloughed, and those such as air traffic controllers and agents for the Transportation Safety Administration and Customs and Border Protection required to work with no pay.

The Port Authority, which operates both airports as well as Newark-Liberty in New Jersey, is keeping passengers updated on things like wait times, including for TSA inspection lines, on its website at panynj.gov, in real time.

But beyond that, finding information on just how the shutdown is impacting the airports can be as difficult as retrieving lost luggage.

Aside from information provided on its website, the PA is referring all inquiries to the TSA. But the TSA’s website has not been updated since Dec. 21. An email to the agency’s press office resulted in an automatic reply — from the email of a TSA spokeswoman who has been furloughed as nonessential.

A similar message was left on the voicemail of a spokesman for the CBP.

The website for the National Air Traffic Controller’s Association said classes and training have been suspended, and newer controllers furloughed.

The government ran out of money for services deemed not essential — members of the House and Senate still get paid — when Congress and President Trump could not come to an agreement on a new budget or a continuing funding resolution.

The major sticking point has been the impasse between Trump and Capitol Hill Democrats over funding for a wall along the Mexican border.

Gabriel Pedreira of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents TSA agents, said one thing is completely unambiguous for his members.

“Employees will not receive their checks on Jan. 11, and that is a real problem,” he said. “The average salary for a TSA agent is about $35,00, and that is not a lot of money, particularly in a high-cost state like New York. Bills are going to start piling up — rent, car payments, credit card payments … even when you drive to work, that’s gas money. And if it continues, they won’t see their Jan. 25 checks.”

Pedreira said about 4,000 of his union’s employees are affected in New York, adding that the union hopes Senate Republicans will back a proposal expected to pass in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to restore the necessary funding. Failing that, according to the union’s website, member Albert Viera, stationed in Oakland, Calif., has filed a federal lawsuit stating that requiring employees to work for no pay violates the federal Fair Labor Relations Act.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn) said in an email on Tuesday she will donate her shutdown salary to New York City food banks, including the Hour Children Food Pantry in Long Island City.

©2019