Air Traffic Controllers Ended the US Government Shutdown but Aren’t Getting Much of the Credit

On Friday, US President Donald Trump agreed to re-open the US Government for 15 days without funding for his much fetishized border wall, thus ending the longest government shutdown in American history.

Pretty much everyone knows that part, but not everyone knows the main cause of Trump’s sudden capitulation. At least I admittedly didn’t on Friday when I half-jokingly posted potential reasons on Facebook, including so the State of the Union could go ahead and Roger Stone’s arrest that morning by unpaid FBI agents.

Within minutes, a couple of FB friends, who had been following things a bit closer than I had, provided me with the real answer. It was one of those “of course” moments.

For weeks, we had been hearing about the back and forth in Washington between the President and newly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. We had also been hearing about furloughed government workers struggling to make ends meet with no pay.

Those were the dominant shutdown narratives. But there were also stories of increasingly larger delays at US airports because unpaid air traffic controllers and TSA screeners were calling in “sick” for work in large number.

Then, on Friday morning, enough unpaid air traffic controllers failed to show up for work that no planes landed at or took off from Laguardia Airport for a little over an hour. The FAA had been forced to temporarily shut down half of of New York City’s air transit.

With the risk of this spreading to other airports, Trump re-opened the Federal Government a few hours later. It was essentially a strike, though an unofficial one, that forced the President’s hand.

This didn’t go unnoticed, at least not by people like AOC:

and Bernie:

Still, the dominant narrative is the one that focuses exclusively on the interplay between the politicians. Pelosi beat Trump. Yes, she did, and she executed the correct play of not backing down beautifully.

Pelosi gets credit, sure. But we shouldn’t ignore the workers who ultimately forced the President’s hand and ended the shutdown.

This was one of the most successful labour actions in recent US history and should not be forgotten. Sometimes people power trumps (forgive the pun) political machinations.

Featured Image: Kristoferb via WikiMedia Commons

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