As the federal government shutdown rolled into uncharted territory last week, nearly 100 people rallied at Pittsburgh International Airport on Friday to urge the president and Congress to end the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
Pittsburgh International has thus far avoided many of the shutdown-related problems that have plagued airports in other parts of the country such as federal workers calling off sick, resulting in longer lines for passengers.
“Morale is low but everyone is still coming to work,” said Bill Reese, the union representative for 130 local TSA employees. “We’re Pittsburgh strong. It’s a different work ethic. Everyone is dedicated to the mission.”
In addition to the rally, local air traffic controllers passed out pamphlets in the terminal, urging the public to put pressure on leaders to end the shutdown.
Mike Dalmaso, local president of the air traffic controllers union in Pittsburgh, said it’s important to put a face on the impact.
“Government employees are going to work and not being paid — that are forced to go to work because we’re safety critical. We’re doing it day in and day out. We’ll continue to work very hard but the (political) system is broken,” he said.
He warned of potential safety consequences should the shutdown continue and pointed to furloughed support staff, saying they are part of the safety redundancies built into the system.
“There are skilled people sitting at home that should be supporting us,” Dalmaso said.
Meanwhile, airport officials continued offering free lunches to federal workers at the airport. Among the organizations donating meals in addition to the airport include Red Robin, McDonald’s, Blume Honey Water and the Pittsburgh Indian Community and Friends.
The airport is also working with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank about the possibility of setting up a food pantry at the airport for federal workers.
“All of it makes us feel appreciated for the situation we’re in,” said TSA agent Bill Siggelow, who has worked for TSA at PIT for three years. “People are paying attention and taking notice and are supportive of what we’re doing.”