DFW Air Traffic Controllers Work Through Shutdown With No Paychecks in Sight

One air traffic controller says some of his colleagues have discussed taking a second job

The partial government shutdown continues into its third week.

With no clear end in sight, the situation is becoming more real for thousands of federal workers still going to work without pay.

Terry Donaldson has been an air traffic controller at the DFW Terminal Radar Approach Control for about 10 years.

"This is a high-pressure, high-volume environment. We work a lot of airplanes. We're responsible for all the flights into, out of and through the DFW metroplex area," Donaldson said.

He's also a member of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, a union that represents more than 20,000 aviation professionals nationwide.

Donaldson's job is considered "essential," and he is still going to work during the shutdown despite not getting paid.

"It seems to be just dragging on, and the uncertainty is definitely an anxiety for myself and my colleagues," he said.

Donaldson said on top of the shutdown, they are facing other issues like a 30-year low in staffing.

He said many air traffic controllers are already working overtime.

"That means working six days a week, sometimes 10-hour days," he said.

Unsure of when their next paycheck will arrive, Donaldson said some of the workers have started to talk about getting a second job.

"I've heard people talking about doing ride share work, heard about taking jobs bartending, waiting tables… anything to put food on their tables," he said.

He said he hadn't heard of any of his coworkers calling out at this time, and that safety remains their top priority.

Donaldson said he hoped the government finds a solution to the shutdown soon.

"The stakes are too high for our men and women who are professionals protecting the safest, most efficient, busiest airspace in the world to be used as leverage in a political dispute," he said.

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