US controllers’ union NATCA lawsuit fails, looks to Jan 31 injunction measures

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s​ lawsuit against the government has failed with the judge ruling against the motion for a temporary restraining order.

NATCA claims the United States government has violated the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution in that the government has unlawfully deprived its members of their earned wages without due process.

Senior Judge Richard Leon stated that he could not issue an order that would allow necessary workers to stay home if they are not being paid. If he did that, critical jobs would not be done, he stated, saying it would create ‘chaos’.

NATCA executive vice president Trish Gilbert issued a statement that the organisation is disappointed with the judge’s ruling although she said she was encouraged that Leon acknowledged the hardships for members.

“Although we are disappointed with the judge’s ruling denying NATCA’s motion for a temporary restraining order, we are encouraged that he acknowledged the ongoing hardships our members are facing because of the shutdown.

“In recognition that time is of the essence, the judge ordered expedited briefing on NATCA’s motion for a preliminary injunction,” she said, adding that NATCA will continue to oppose the injustice of its members working while being deprived of their earned wages and looked forward to making its argument on January 31.

NATCA will be handing out leaflets to travellers explaining to them how important their job is and how they are working without payment and how the shutdown is affecting passenger safety.

The union represents nearly 20,000 air traffic controllers and engineers.

Of the FAA’s total workforce of nearly 45,000 employees, the US Department of Transportation Shutdown Plan specifies that over 24,000 employees are “excepted” from furloughs (e.g., air traffic controllers and individuals responsible for maintenance and operation of navigations aids, airmen medical certifications, and commercial space launch oversight).

Of the nearly 45,000 FAA employees, the total number of “excepted” and “exempt” employees is slightly more than 27,000 and the number of furloughed employees is nearly 18,000.