Media Coverage of Members Continues after Shutdown
Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Communications Department joined with NATCA leadership, our affected Region X bargaining unit regional reps, the Government Affairs Department, and the Legislative Committee in a tremendous team effort last week with one goal: convince Congress to end the partial shutdown of the FAA and return those furloughed back to their jobs. And we succeeded.

Our issue received a very high level of visibility due to a massive amount of national media attention. We felt this story below from the Federal Eye column in The Washington Post last Friday summed things up quite well, and even featured our very own Region X members.

FAA engineers relieved after intense media spotlight

By Lisa Rein and Steve Vogel

Eight furloughed Federal Aviation Administration engineers who confronted lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week heard by text message that congressional leaders reached a deal on stopgap funding. They had just left a lawmaker’s office, about the 13th meeting in two days.

The partial shutdown of the aviation agency left 4,000 engineers without almost two weeks’ pay, and left the 70,000 construction workers the engineers oversee without work.

We spoke to two furloughed engineers and a safety inspector late Thursday to get their reaction to the news.

¦Bill Mitchell, 68, a lead airport certification safety inspector for the FAA based in Fort Worth, Texas, was reviewing assignments for the coming week with his five-member team when news of the agreement arrived. Airport safety inspectors had continued working without pay during the furlough at the request of the FAA because of the critical nature of their assignment.?  “It's not just a job, but something we feel is a vital part of aviation safety,” said Mitchell, who has worked for the FAA since 1989. The inspectors were willing to pay their own travel costs in the hopes of later reimbursement by the government, he said.?The five inspectors were all that remained out of three dozen FAA workers usually at the Fort Worth office. “We're very relieved it's resolved,” Mitchell said. “We're looking forward to everyone getting back to work and enhancing the mission of aviation safety.”

¦ Dan Stefko, a project engineer who flew in from Pittsburgh for the meetings on Capitol Hill, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the deal. But he was realistic.

“This is only an extension,” Stefko said as he got out of a taxi in front of the union headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue NW. “Congress has resolved its differences until Sept. 16. Until we have a long-term FAA funding bill in place, we won’t be able to relax.”

In the past 10 days, Stefko found himself in places he would never expect to be: Walking the halls of Congress and speaking out on CNN, MSNBC, NBC and several other television networks.

He planned to drive home early Friday to get ready to go back to work on Monday.

¦ Mike MacDonald, regional vice president of the FAA union representing the furloughed workers, got very little sleep this week. When he heard news of the deal Thursday afternoon, “All of the emotion, all of the energy we’ve put into fighting this.... an enormous weight was lifted,” he said.

He, too, became a media fixture in a few days as he took every opportunity to get the furloughed workers’ stories to the public.

“Everywhere you looked, we were talking about 74,000 jobs at least that were on the line,” MacDonald said. “I think getting the message out there helped. It really was hurting jobs and real people. We were just kind of caught in the crossfire.”


Here are some other notable clips that marked the end of the 14-day shutdown:

The Union Leader
“Funding for FAA helps in Nashua” 

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi quoted:
        National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said the shutdown was a “tremendously difficult time” for the workers — mainly from engineering — and their families, as well as for the construction workers whose projects were shut down due to lack of funding. He said the association will continue to fight for workers to ensure that the situation doesn’t happen again.??“We are absolutely relieved that these men and women who have suffered so greatly these past two weeks will now get to return to their important jobs and earn a paycheck that won’t be held up in another Washington political game,” Rinaldi said. “We would like to thank the administration, Transportation Secretary (Ray) LaHood and FAA Administrator (J. Randolph) Babbitt for their leadership and passionate fight on behalf of those workers who contribute so mightily to the United States having the safest and most efficient aviation system in the world. We also want to thank Congress for finishing its work and restoring full operations to the FAA and our airport infrastructure that is so integral to helping drive our economy forward.”?
ABC News
“FAA Shutdown: Senate to Pass House Bill, End Shutdown”
Region X member Curt Howe quoted:
        "I'd like Congress to get out their own personal checkbooks for the damages they're causing," Howe said just hours before the Senate deal was announced.
        Howe flew in to Washington, D.C., this week to plead with lawmakers to pass an FAA funding bill so he and his fellow furloughed engineers could go back to work.
        He said the work stoppage on construction projects is causing "huge financial damages to the FAA" because, for example, half-finished roofs are being ruined in the rain.
        "It's kind of like rust," Howe said. "It's sitting there and getting rustier and rustier, and nobody's taking care of it." While Howe and his fellow FAA employees can go back to work next week, it is unclear whether they will get back-pay for the days they were furloughed. Congress would have to approve the back-pay.
National Journal
“FAA workers greet news of deal with cautious optimism”
Region X member Fred Rasche quoted:
        "I don't think we're completely out of the woods yet," said Fred Rasche, a 49-year-old electrical engineer who has worked for the FAA for the last 27 years. "I would hope that they wouldn't do this again - send all these people home."
        … If there's a silver lining to the whole mess, Rasche said that it's shown him the importance of having his voice heard in the political process. He had never been in touch with his representative before. On Wednesday, he was on Capitol Hill speaking to congressional aides about his predicament.
        "This is kind of a wake-up call," Rasche said. "What [lawmakers] do up there does matter and it does impact our lives."
Long Island Press
“Lawmakers Reach Deal on FAA Funding” (Video and story)
NATCA engineer Jim Anzaldi quoted:
        Over 2,000 FAA and construction workers in the state received furlough notices. Jim Anzaldi, an FAA engineer who works at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center just outside LIMA, said he had already filed for unemployment after he was told two weeks ago not to return to work the following Monday.
        “It’s just tragic,” said the father of two, whose wife is nine months pregnant. Anzaldi said there had been warnings in the past concerning furloughs, but said “the tone with this one was different.”

Long Island Business News
“LI congressmen call for FAA reauthorization”
NATCA engineer Jim Anzaldi quoted:
        While the FAA shutdown is affecting the federal government’s bottom line, the furloughed workers were the ones who appeared to be affected the most. Jim Anzaldi, an FAA engineer from Mt. Sinai said the furlough has forced him to dip into his savings to support his pregnant wife and two children.
        “We’ve had to put a dozen projects on hold,” Anzaldi said. “We can’t do the work, and as a result, we’re not getting a paycheck.”

NY Daily News
“A Taste of Bi-Partisan Agreement”

Region X member Nick Paraskevas quoted:

        “That’s great news,” said Nick Paraskevas, 47, of Queens. The FAA electrical engineer and father-of-two was out two weeks pay because of the FAA’s partial shut-down July 23.

        “We won’t get the money immediately, but hopefully soon,” said Paraskevas, who went back to work Monday at the agency’s Jamaica, Queens, regional office.