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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hartsfield-Jackson air traffic controllers aren't getting paid due to government shutdown

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  • Tara Lynne Pixley/CL
Several hundred Atlanta air traffic controllers have been told to keep working without pay as part of the ongoing government shutdown.

Earlier today, an official from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association told 11 Alive more than 600 workers responsible for making sure planes land safely and take off without delay from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, won't receive paychecks if the shutdown continues for much longer.

According to Victor Santore, the union's Southern regional vice president, the prolonged partisan skirmish in Washington, D.C., could eventually pose a safety threat:

"It's a standoff. And both sides seem to be backing up and punting, and we seem to be the football right now," said Victor Santore of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "And I don't like being the football."

Santore says air controllers will get half a paycheck Tuesday. If the government shutdown continues two more weeks, they will get no paycheck - even though they've reported to work. He contends FAA furloughs impact air safety.

"Every day this goes on, it just peels away at the margin of safety," Santore said.

National lawmakers, Santore added, were treating air traffic controllers like they were "pawns in a game of chess," which has added unnecessary stress on the essential positions. Case in point: Federal Aviation Administration Airway Transportation Systems Specialist Douglas Lowe. In an interview with CBS News, the 32-year-old worker, who's based in Atlanta, said the furloughs seemed "ridiculous" and have made life difficult for his family:

Lowe's next pay check is scheduled on Oct. 29. Like thousands of government workers across the country, he's hoping the shutdown ends before then.

"If this continues on, the next pay day I will get absolutely zero on my paycheck," said Lowe.

The shutdown has been stressful for him and his family.

"I actually tapped into my savings plan and took out a loan to make sure I don't default on anything. I have a mortgage, and then I have a second mortgage for my mom. I take care of her because she is mentally ill so I have two mortgages to worry about, car payments, a kid," said Lowe.

Still no word on when the impasse between President Barack Obama and GOP leaders will end.

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