LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As the federal government shutdown extended to a record 25th day, air traffic controllers at airports nationwide, including at Louisville International, gathered on Tuesday.
Employed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the employees are in charge of making sure flights get off the ground, and return to the ground, safely.
Workers fall into two categories, non-essential and essential. The former group is furloughed during the shutdown, while the latter are working without paychecks until Congress passes, and the President signs, funding into law.
Supported by their unions, the air-traffic controllers called it an informational gathering, to let travelers know what’s going on with the government. However, the signs they carried called on Washington to work out the politics and to let them get back to a regular workload with a regular paycheck.
Jason Arnold, an air traffic controller and union representative, said he and his colleagues do not know when they will get their next checks, as they worry about mortgages, car insurance and child care, among other bills.
"The additional stress on an air traffic controller is the least of our worries at this point," he said. "We want to be focused on the aviation system and the flying public."
The workers carried signs and met with travelers, from noon until 6 p.m., saying that they will still do their best, even with government shuttered.
“Aviation safety is not going to be compromised,” Arnold said. “Air traffic controllers respect their profession and are willing to do the job, but sooner or later we need to get paid.”
Arnold said they want the public to get involved and reach out to their representation in Washington, D.C. to keep the record shutdown from becoming even longer.
However, as of Tuesday night, there appeared to be little movement toward solution.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told CNN that a deal comes down to President Trump reaching an agreement with enough House and Senate Democrats to ensure that legislation passes.
This sticking point: $5 billion in funding for a border wall that Trump insists be included in the budget, while Democrats want to pass funding for other agencies and take up that debate separately.
McConnell said he stands with Trump and would not override a veto.
“In a situation like this, where the president in my view is in the right place, trying to get the right outcome, as all of us have expressed with regard to border security, of course not,” he said.