Solidarity in the Government Shutdown of 2018-2019
The Government Shutdown of 2018-2019 ran for 35 days, from December 22, 2018 – January 25, 2019. It was the longest shutdown in the history of the United States. Most all Federal agencies were affected, and 800,000 federal workers were directly impacted by furloughs and delayed paychecks.
The solidarity of Federal unions working synergistically with private sector unions, especially aviation sector unions, played a key role in ending the Shutdown. Private sector unions can strike; in the federal sector, it is illegal.
Federal Unions: The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) , and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) coordinated efforts in solidarity with private sector Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). Televised interviews featuring Union leaders and federal workers, along with rallies at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC featuring AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, union leaders, and members of Congress were followed by demonstrations at the Senate Hart Office Building and arrests outside Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. These efforts brought national attention to the shutdown’s effect on workers.
A specific leader emerged during the Shutdown – Sara Nelson. Union President and professional flight-attendant Sara Nelson of the AFA-CWA would ultimately throw down the gauntlet to Leader McConnell and the Administration, by threatening to call a strike if an agreement was not reached, citing mounting safety factors to the flying public. TSA workers had been stretched thin – 33 days without pay – some forced to sleep in their cars for lack of gas money. The AFA-CWA, National Air Traffic Controllers Association(NATCA), AirLine Pilots Association (ALPA) joined in. She called a strike on Jan. 25; a ground stop was ordered by the FAA at New York’s LaGuardia airport; and the shutdown ended later that day, approximately a week before the Superbowl.