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Union warns of threat to air safety from the partial government shutdown

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

The technicians who maintain the nation’s air traffic system warn the ongoing partial federal government shutdown is affecting air safety.

A weekend offer that President Donald Trump says is a compromise with Democrats doesn't appear to be on track to ending the partial government shutdown, now in Day 31.

Members of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union spent time Monday picketing outside airports in Flint and Grand Rapids.

Spokesman Tim Mach says the month-long shutdown is forcing technicians to forego needed supplies.

“It’s definitely getting to a point where, ‘Well, do we really that? Do we really need that right now?’” says Mach. “So those kind of decisions are being made. And those are the kind of decisions that could jeopardize aviation safety.”

Mach says some younger aviation technicians are running short of money after a month since their last paycheck. He says those who can may soon retire, which will leave them shorthanded.

Meanwhile, the percentage of TSA airport screeners missing work has hit 10 percent as the partial government shutdown stretches into its fifth week.

The Transportation Security Administration said Monday that Sunday's absence rate compared to 3.1 percent on the comparable Sunday a year ago.

The workers who screen passengers and their bags face missing another paycheck if the shutdown doesn't end early this week. According to TSA, many of them say the financial hardship is preventing them from reporting to work.

TSA says the national average waiting time in airport checkpoint lines is within the normal limit of 30 minutes, but there are longer lines at some airports.

The agency has dispatched extra screeners to airports in Atlanta, Miami, and Newark, New Jersey.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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