In a show of solidarity with their American counterparts, Canadian air traffic controllers have ordered hundreds of pizzas for those working without pay as a result of the federal government shutdown. Peter Duffey, president of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, said the controllers wanted to help out their colleagues who faced their first Friday with no pay.
Last Thursday, one of CATCA's control centers in Edmonton, Alberta, came up with the idea of sending pizzas to their counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska. Other centers followed suit by sending pizzas to controllers they share airspace with. The show of camaraderie has extended with controllers in Fort McMurray, Alberta, buying pizzas their counterparts in El Paso, Texas, and air traffic controllers in Gander, Newfoundland, and Moncton, New Brunswick, placing an order for their colleagues in Ronkonkoma, Long Island.
According to Duffey, the response has been "very, very heartwarming" with American controllers sending their Canadian colleagues thank you messages over the radio. "In the big scheme of things, sending some pizzas to people that are missing paychecks is a small gesture, but the message that it sends them is a big gesture," he added.
Air traffic controllers from Canada sent pizza to their American colleagues who’ve been working without pay during the shutdown pic.twitter.com/myLJFddT8C— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 15, 2019
Air traffic controllers in the US have been working without pay since the federal shutdown began on December 22. The FAA has dismissed reports that air traffic control had been impacted by the shutdown, tweeting, "Air traffic control is fully operational and there is no impact to safety or FAA oversight for travelers."
On Friday, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association filed a lawsuit in a District of Columbia US District Court claiming the federal government has "unlawfully deprived NATCA members of their earned wages." The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and back pay for hours worked since the shutdown.
ATC Memes, a Facebook page run by a former air traffic controller, has been flooded with messages of gratitude for Canada. Chris Taylor, jokingly wrote, “I know who I’m voting for next election. Canada!” On Twitter, a user named “Call Me Myke” wrote that he was thankful for “the extremely kind gesture of buying us pizza while our own government isn’t paying us.” Adding, “I might have to cheer for a Canadian hockey team.”
I'm extremely grateful of @CATCA5454 for the extremely kind gesture of buying us pizza while our own government isn't paying us. I might have to cheer for a Canadian hockey team (as long as they aren't playing the Coyotes 🤣) #ThankYou #Day21 pic.twitter.com/d6IYBWbGdz— 🏳️🌈Call Me Myke🇺🇸 (@jimmyphx) January 12, 2019
Canadians have historically shown solidarity with Americans in times of suffering. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, residents of Gander, Newfoundland, provided housing and food to nearly 6,700 travelers after American airspace was closed and 38 planes were forced to land in the town of 10,000.
The solidarity of Canadian air traffic controllers has been replicated by controllers at the Irish Aviation Authority base in Shannon, who ordered six large pizzas for workers in Westbury, Long Island.