Md. senator: Shutdown is compromising safety; time to end it

HANOVER, Md. — U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin said Monday that the partial government shutdown is “dangerous” and hurting federal workers.

Standing at BWI Marshall Airport with representatives from unions who do everything from inspecting aircraft to performing security checks, the Maryland Democrat said “the mission that the people behind me carry out to make sure that we keep air traffic as safe as possible is being compromised by this partial shutdown.”

The shutdown, Cardin said, is not only affecting federal workers but also hurting the economy. “When [workers] don’t get a paycheck, they don’t spend money,” he told reporters at a morning news conference.

“That hurts businesses in our communities; it hurts our economy.”

Also on hand was Mike Perrone, the president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO, which represents 11,000 federal employees, including aviation safety inspectors. He said his members work on and inspect equipment that can carry 100,000 volts.

“They have to keep their head in the game at all times,” said Perrone, adding that working without pay and not knowing when the shutdown will end makes that a challenge.

Perrone also explained that other workers are out on furlough. “This is a compromise to a layer of safety,” he told reporters. While airline industry workers are performing safety checks, he said, “our regulatory side of the FAA is not there to oversee them.”

The U.S. air traffic system is still the safest in the world, Perrone said, but he added that “that erodes day after day” as workers worry about making rent or mortgage payments.

David Gillen, a union representative for PASS, had a simple message for the public: “We want to go back to work. We want to make sure that we have the ability to protect the flying public.”

Lamar Cobb, a lead security officer with TSA, explained how colleagues have shared their concerns about making ends meet: “A lot of people call me and confide in me, and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know how I’m going to make it to work — I don’t have no more gas. I have to choose between food and gas.’”

Dimeka Thornton, like Cobb, works for TSA. “There’s people that haven’t been able to make car payments, can’t make mortgage payments.” Thornton said — “it’s a difficult time.”

Cardin told reporters he was pleased that Congress was able to pass legislation that will guarantee that federal workers will get back pay once the shutdown ends and they can go back to work.

But he added: “This shutdown needs to end now.”

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