As we rapidly approach part two of the Great Shutdown, airline workers are already preparing to take action to oppose it by calling for a general strike.
“This unprecedented action by our government requires an unprecedented response from our nation,” a website affiliated with the International Association of Flight Attendants — which represents roughly 50,000 flight attendants across the airline industry — states. “We believe it is time to talk about a general strike.”
The first leg of the shutdown lasted a record 35 days and ended shortly after the stress placed on the air travel industry by Transportation Security Administration employees and air traffic controllers working without pay sparked a cascade of airline delays. TSA workers began resigning en masse.
“Every day the government stays shut down, it gets less safe to fly,” cautioned furloughed airline inspector Chuck Banks in early January.
One example of this is the way pilots changed in-air security measures. Normally, a flight in takeoff or landing observes a “sterile cockpit,” where communication is cut off to allow pilots to focus on the most intense and dangerous parts of a flight. Some flights stopped observing this policy, though, out of concern that the cabin might contain unsafe elements that a full-force TSA could stop.
By late January, airline pilots and flight attendants warned “we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play.”
After less than a month’s reprieve, that risk is poised to be reintroduced into air travel. And again, the airline workers are sounding the alarm.
They aren’t just asking for an airline strike either.
“If the shutdown continues, we call on all Americans to join us on February 16th at our nation’s airports to show what workers united can achieve,” the general strike site states. “Together, we have the power to end this nightmare for millions of Americans and demand a government that works for all of us.”
Efforts to resolve the core dispute of the shutdown have not been fruitful. In negotiations over border security, Democrats asked that the number of people detained at the border in conditions that have led to 22 immigrant deaths be capped. This made negotiations come to a grinding halt over the weekend.
So the Great Shutdown is on pace to resume at midnight on Saturday, and with it another marked increase in danger in American skies.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.