Air traffic controllers get their first shutdown pay stub: $0.00

Before Corey Soignet had hundreds of lives in his hands, hour after hour, in the airspace above Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, he spent years guiding military aircraft. He had joined the Air National Guard with an eye toward becoming a pilot, but found being an air traffic controller such meaningful work that he made it his career.

He’s learned the “hyper focus” needed to help guide aircraft through night skies and brutal storms.

On Thursday, Soignet — with 22 years of experience working for the military and Federal Aviation Administration — got a look at his wages for the last two weeks of work helping keep U.S. skies and travelers safe. His net pay? $0.00.

As one of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees working without pay during the government shutdown, Soignet knew it was coming, but it was jarring nonetheless.

“In all that public service, this is the first time I’ve received a pay stub with zero on it for work completed,” Soignet said. And there’s no sign of when that will change.

“Now I don’t know how much I can put toward that credit card. Do I pay half my water bill? Do I have enough money for 30 days or 60 days or six months? You can’t ask people to budget like that.”


Corey Soignet, an air traffic controller at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, is photographed on Jan. 10, 2019 visiting Washington, D.C. Soignet is one of the thousands of air traffic controllers nationwide who are working without pay. (Photo by Michael Laris/The Washington Post)

It was an experience shared by air traffic controllers across the country, who visited employeeexpress.gov to find their latest payroll updates. There, along with the mundane health and withholding information on their Department of Transportation Earnings and Leave Statement is a small box with the words “Net Pay” highlighted in blue.

And under it: “$0.00”.

Most federal employees are paid every two weeks. This is the first payday without a check for air traffic controllers.

Air traffic controllers demand end to shutdown ‘today!’

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association union and their furloughed employees called for an end to the government shutdown outside the Capitol on Jan. 1 (Reuters)

More than 24,000 FAA employees are working without pay, since their positions are considered vital for “life and safety.” Another more than 17,000 have been furloughed, told to stop doing their jobs, including the vital training work needed to bring much-needed additional air traffic controllers into the workforce after years of retirements have thinned the ranks.

Air traffic controllers describe an extraordinary pride in their work, tied to the stakes of what they do. Soignet says he thinks of his family flying. “It has to be the right decision at the right time. If it’s a bad decision, the risks are tremendous,” he says.

So when he puts on his headphones, even after the deeply discouraging image of an earnings statement without earnings, he said he will not let his mind wander to questions about cash.


Demonstrators rally against the government shutdown at a protest hosted by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. U.S. air traffic controllers and TSA officers are at work without pay. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg

But it will haunt his crucial rebuilding time when he’s home, he said. “You’re taking that time you can decompress and now there’s another external factor: When am I going to get paid?” Soignet said.

“It puts a tremendous amount of stress in a system that doesn’t need any more stress,” said Andrew LeBovidge, a regional vice president with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Soignet, who also serves in the controllers union, said there are many federal employees who are worse off than his family, since his wife’s income will help cushion them for some time.

But he thinks of the single-parent controllers who live on one now-absent income, or the Transportation Security Administration workers at the airport he saw on his way to press the controllers case in Washington. Many of those TSA employees earn less than air traffic controllers, but also must still work, he said.

He’s put money aside for years. But with spending on a move, medical bills and life expenses, “I don’t have savings for six months of my income,” Soignet said.

Furloughed employees rally against shutdown: ‘Stop playing politics with our lives’

Furloughed federal employees and supporters protested the ongoing government shutdown, urging President Trump and Congress to open the government. (Video: Joyce Koh /Photo: Michael Williamson/The Washington Post)

With President Trump insisting on billions of dollars for a border wall, and top congressional Democrats voting to reopen government without it, Washington remains at an impasse.

Soignet would not publicly take a position on that question, or say who he thinks is to blame.

“When it comes to border security, it’s a discussion that needs to be had. But federal employees shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip,” he said.

credit: washingtonpost.com

Publish on Apt

Do you have any Social, informational, educational or entertaining stuff that should be featured on www.aptnewsghana.com?

Please submit your stories, pictures, and videos to us via WhatsApp: +233548388489 or click on the icon on your screen. Alternatively, email us: aptnewsghana@gmail.com

RSS APO Group – Africa-Newsroom: latest news releases related to Africa

  • Statement by the African Peer Review Mechanism on the Downgrade of South Africa by Fitch and Moody’s November 25, 2020
    Download logoThe African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a specialized entity of the African Union (AU), supports African countries in the area of credit rating agencies. As part of this mandate, the APRM undertakes routine reviews of rating opinions of African countries issued by international credit ratings agencies. Accordingly, the APRM has noted the downgraded by […]
  • Mining Indaba Launches Brand-New Virtual Investment Programme November 25, 2020
    Investing in African Mining Indaba (Mining Indaba) (https://www.MiningIndaba.com) today announced the launch of its Virtual Investment Programme, taking place 30-31 March 2021. The Programme is a new service for mining companies, investors and analysts to raise capital, pitch their companies and originate deals. “The highly experienced Investor Relations team will work closely with participants to […]
  • African Union Special Envoy on Youth Solidarity visit to South Sudan to commemorate Africa Youth Month November 25, 2020
    Download logo“Young people of South Sudan are demanding the dialogue to be intergenerational; we urgently need solidarity between generations to ensure co-leadership in the peace process”, she said The African Union Special Envoy on Youth, Ms. Aya Chebbi, during a 3-day solidarity mission to South Sudan to commemorate the Africa Youth Day. The goal mission […]
  • PowerHouse leads the pack November 25, 2020
    Lusaka Rugby Club aka Powerhouse has continued leading the way in shaping the landscape of Zambian rugby since the Covid19 restrictions were eased. The club which introduced the now famous "Sunday Touch Rugby Games" in the Showgrounds opposite Manda Hill Lusaka has been recording great interest from many rugby enthusiasts. These include both former & current […]
  • Why Ghana needs a new financial sector regulation architecture (By Woelinam Dogbe) November 25, 2020
    By Woelinam Dogbe, President of the Alliance for Financial Consumer Protection (AFCOP) Ghana’s financial sector is in crisis. A crisis occasioned by the collapse of over 300 financial institutions; and which has affected every division of the financial sector. Universal banks, savings and loans companies, microfinance companies, capital market institutions, and insurance companies have been […]
  • Dozens of Distinguished Guests Join Opening Ceremony and Conference of Shanxi Brands Online Tour on the Silk Road (Middle East and Africa) 2020! November 25, 2020
    CCPIT Shanxi, a government body, organized the Shanxi Brands Online Tour on the Silk Road (Middle East and Africa) 2020 which is held offline on 24 November 2020 in Shanxi Province, China as well as on the GTW – Virtual Exhibition Platform. This high level event was graced and attended by distinguished leaders, dignitaries and […]
  • African Economic Research Consortium to Host a Virtual Plenary Session on: COVID-19 Pandemic and Public Finance in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities November 25, 2020
    Download logoAfrican Economic Research Consortium (AERC) (https://AERCAfrica.org) will host its 53rd Plenary Session on the theme on the “Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic and Public Finance in Africa – Challenges and Opportunities” on December 7, 2020. The sessions will be held virtually where researchers, academics, policy makers, and non-state actors will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on […]
  • Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) extends a USD50million revolving construction facility to Yellow Door Energy to finance solar projects November 25, 2020
    Financing facility to YDE is in line with APICORP’s (www.APICORP.org) strategic drive to support energy diversification and access to sustainable power in MENA region; Facility to be used for developing solar energy assets in key markets across the region including Jordan and Pakistan; YDE currently has over 110 megawatts of solar assets in operating and […]
  • Africans “know and understand what development ought to look like,” says President Uhuru Kenyatta November 25, 2020
    President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta urged African governments to put their citizens at the centre of delivering service during Africa Delivery Exchange 2020, a virtual event that opened Tuesday. In remarks to open the two-day workshop, Kenyatta noted that on a continent of around 1.3 billion Africans with a median age of around 20 years, […]
  • Pearson PTE To Launch Secure English Language Testing in Nigeria November 25, 2020
    Pearson (https://middleeast.Pearson.com), the world’s learning company, hosted a virtual launch of its PTE Secure English Language Test (SELT) in Nigeria. These tests have been approved by the UK Home Office and are used for UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) purposes.   SVP for English Assessment at Pearson, Freya Thomas Monk, says these tests offer a fast, fair and convenient choice for anyone who wishes to work, […]
About Editor 606 Articles
Joe Bright Nyarko Journalist/Communication Researcher. Environment & Sustainability Advocate. Managing Editor of aptnewsghana.com, a non-profit news portal with bias towards environment and sustainability issues, rural development policies and gender & inequality.