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Local air traffic controllers continue to work without pay

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — Now that the partial government shutdown is in its 28th day — the longest in history — employees in Fort Wayne tell us they’re not sure how much longer they can continue to work without pay.
“Why are we just being used as pawns in a political game for one side versus the other instead of just taking care of us the way we’d like to see anybody in the country be taken care of,” Jordan Hefner says.
Hefner is the local Air Traffic Controllers Association president.
As federal employees who keep the country’s air space organized, they’re considered “essential,” but they’re not getting paid.
“You try to rise above that as being a professional, knowing how much the country depends on air traffic controllers to get people where they need to go day in and day out,” Hefner says.
He says some air traffic controllers at larger airports are already having to work 10-hour days, six days a week, and that many of them at Fort Wayne International are starting to worry about being able to pay their bills on time.
“I’m sure people are going to do what they need to, whether they dip into their savings or whatever it needs to be. But as we get to a second or third or hopefully there’s no more missed paychecks, it’s really going to start to add up,” Hefner says.
He says the stress from the job and covering extra shifts will take its toll, as well.
“In a job where you’re constantly having to be on your A game and pay attention to everything that’s going on, that’s going to wear down on a person. And it’s just more and more cracks are going to start to show. And it’s going to get to the point where it’s a matter of when, not if, something bad happens,” Hefner says.
“We were just scared. Them not being paid and stuff, it’s kind of sad. And they’re keeping the planes in the air? Yeah, they are, and it is scary, though,” flyer Jason Esterline says.
“We admire them and are very thankful they’re continuing to work even though they’re not paid because our lives depend on them. So personally I’m urging the government to get this done so these people have their pay,” says Ron Garwood who was flying home to Wyoming.
“That is going to be something that is going to start creeping into people’s minds as this continues to go on of can I even afford the gas to come into work that day?” Hefner asks.
He hopes the shutdown will be resolved before the situation gets that bad.
By the way, in Indiana, federal employees who are not getting paid because of the government shutdown are not eligible for unemployment.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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