Air traffic controllers sue Trump for being forced to work with no pay during shutdown

Air-traffic controllers working in the air-traffic control tower at LaGuardia Airport in New York.
Air-traffic controllers working in the air-traffic control tower at LaGuardia Airport in New York.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - The National Air Traffic Controllers Association filed a lawsuit on Friday (Jan 11) against President Donald Trump and other top federal officials, saying they are depriving controllers of their "hard-earned compensation without the requisite due process".

Controllers across the country started seeing pay stubs on Thursday showing that they are receiving no pay for their work guiding planes to airports nationwide.

The legal challenge, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks a temporary restraining order against the federal government for allegedly violating controllers' constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment.

The air traffic controllers are also organising a leafleting effort appealing directly to passengers at airports across the country, including in Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, as well as at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, a union official said.

The intent of the leafleting is to underscore the importance of their work and end the shutdown more quickly, the official said, not to protest.

The controllers are among hundreds of thousands of federal workers forced to work for free during the partial government shutdown.

More than 24,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees are working without pay because their positions are considered vital for "life and safety".


Separately, more than 17,000 other FAA workers have been furloughed.

Says the lawsuit, "Each day, the FAA's Air Traffic Controllers are responsible for ensuring the safe routing of tens of thousands of flights, often working lengthy, gruelling overtime shifts to do so.

"In fact, plaintiffs' job is so demanding and requires such rare skills that the FAA struggles to maintain a full complement of certified Air Traffic Controllers."

A similar suit was filed on behalf of federal workers at the departments of Justice, Agriculture and Homeland Security.