Canadian air traffic controllers send pizzas to U.S. counterparts working without pay

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David Heady, left, and Julie Lytle, at an air traffic control tower in Portland, Maine, with pizza provided by the Moncton Control Center in New Brunswick, Canada. Chris Presley/PWM Airport Traffic Control Tower photo

Air traffic controllers from Atlantic Canada directed a fleet of special arrivals into the New York Air Traffic Control Centre on last week as a gesture of solidarity and respect.

And each was covered in a layer of gooey melted cheese.

The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association units in Gander, N.L., and Moncton, N.B., ordered pizzas for all of their colleagues at the control center on Long Island, who had been working without pay since the partial U.S. government shutdown began on Dec. 22.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants $5.7 billion US to build a border wall with Mexico, and says he won’t put through a bill to cover the cost of operating parts of the government until he gets it. The Democrats have put forward a funding bill, but don’t support the wall.

“It’s been so overwhelmingly negative and it’s nice to see that there’s solidarity out there. There’s people out there who are just saying, ‘Hey, I work with you as a friend or a colleague and here’s a nice gesture of friendship, that we care,’” said David Lombardo, a former air traffic controller who lives in Long Island and runs a social media site for people in the industry.

“Aviation is a really tight-knit group of people, it’s like a family. And plus, it goes against the whole rhetoric here that we’re talking about because it’s an international boundary!”

Air traffic controllers provide essential services and are unable to suspend work or take any other job action during the government shutdown, he said. As a result, with no other government services running, they’re working without paychecks.

According to Doug Church, deputy director of public affairs with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in the U.S., there were 14,000 controllers working without pay.

And they were thrilled about the pizzas.

“It’s just a really good shot in the arm of positive energy,’” he said. “On behalf of the entire NATCA and air traffic control around this country, we extend our thanks and our gratitude.”

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