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Canadian Air Traffic Controllers Gesture To American Counterparts Goes Viral Amid Shutdown

Facebook - PWM ACTC/Global News

In case you haven't heard, the United States government is partially shut down, for what is now the longest stretch under any president in history. President Trump is refusing to put through a bill that covers the costs of operating parts of the government until Democrats agree to fund his $5.7 billion border wall, which means that essential government workers are going without pay.

Border patrol agents, TSA workers, and postal workers are just some of the people who have been working without pay since December 22.

Another group of people left metaphorically stranded are air traffic controllers, who are not allowed to take on another job or strike while this government shutdown is ongoing. In true Canadian fashion, the Canadian Air Traffic Controller Association units in Gander, Newfoundland, and Moncton, New Brunswick decided they needed to do something to help their American counterparts.

So they ordered a bunch of pizza.

David Lombardo, a former air traffic controller who lives in Long Island and runs a social media site for people in the industry, posted on Reddit about the giant pizza delivery coming to the New York Air Traffic Control Center, and people absolutely loved it.

"It's been so overwhelmingly negative and it's nice to see that there's solidarity out there," Lombardo said. "There's people out there who are just saying, 'Hey, I work with you as a friend or a colleague and here's a nice gesture of friendship, that we care."

"Aviation is a really tight-knit group of people, it's like a family," Lombardo continued. "And plus, it goes against the whole rhetoric here that we're talking about because it's an international boundary!"

Lombardo said that in a time when things are so uncertain, there's no doubt a lot of stress going through the minds of the controllers.

"They're worried about their mortgages, their medical bills," Lombardo pointed out. "It's one thing to have a date set and say, 'Hey you're going to get your back pay in a week or two,' but they have absolutely no idea when they're going to get paid, And you can imagine that's pretty disheartening and pretty scary for many people."

Doug Church, deputy director of public affairs with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in the U.S., said that the pizza delivery was not only unexpected, but extremely uplifting. He says there are over 14,000 controllers in the United States working without pay.

"It's just a really good shot in the arm of positive energy and positive emotion to know that, 'Hey they've got our back,'" Church said. "On behalf of the entire NATCA and air traffic control around this country, we extend our thanks and our gratitude."

From Canada's perspective, this move was a no-brainer. After all, it's about camaraderie.

"This is as grassroots as it gets, with our members just jumping on board this like crazy," Peter Duffey, president of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association (CATCA), said. "I couldn't be more proud of what my members are doing."

Plus, when it comes to the skies, borders are a little different. Everyone is doing the same job to make sure no one gets hurt.

"We always stand together, especially with our American counterparts," Duffey said. "Our members just want to reach out to those people that they consider to be co-workers. We're all taking care of the skies over North America."

Air traffic controllers are under an immense amount of stress as it is, so when you add on the stress of not getting paid, especially around the holidays, things can get a little messy. That's why the Canadians felt they needed to support their American friends.

"We always say that we have to be 100 per cent correct, 100 per cent of the time, with zero room for error," Duffey pointed out. "That's the nature of our job. To have somebody have to report to work with the added pressure of knowing they're now into their second period of work with no paycheque, they don't need that kind of added stress and pressure. We just want to send them a message that says, 'Hey we're with you, we stand with you, and we're sorry that this is happening to you.'"

Lombardo said the controllers in Gander were already well-known for their aviation savvy, and now it's time everyone saw them for their people skills as well.

"They have a massive chunk of airspace that they handle," Lombardo said. "They're well-known for being very, very important in the aviation world, and it's so nice to see them care about everyone else around them."

And if you were worried that the Canadians ordered some generic pizza for their friends in New York, don't be. Lombardo said they did it right.

"It's really good pizza," Lombardo wrote. "And this is Long Island. Believe me, we are pizza perfectionists."

It wasn't just New York that received pizza, either. At least 40 different locations in the United States have received pizzas from their Canadian counterparts, and Duffey says that number is growing by the hour.

A Reddit user from Toronto posted about an email he and his colleagues received about the delivery.

"As a gesture of solidarity with our fellow American controllers, we will be sending pizza to the Cleveland Center controllers for dinner. They are in the middle of the government shutdown and as of yesterday did not receive their paycheques," the email reportedly said. "All the [Area Control Centre's (ACC] across the country will be buying pizzas for their adjacent centres."

[H/T: CBC, Global News]

Seeing nice news stories like this always makes my heart swell. Kindness does not have any borders.

Donna loves spending time in front of the TV catching up on dramas, but in the summer you'll find her in the garden.