Shutdown means lower pay, more stress for air traffic controllers

Shutdown means lower pay, more stress for air traffic controllers
A United Airlines jet departs in view of the air traffic control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are getting a reduced paycheck today thanks to the government shutdown.  It's affecting everyone from Social Security administrators to air traffic controllers at Sea-Tac airport.

Samantha Navarro is president of the local air traffic controllers union.  She says they're only getting paid for hours worked before the shutdown.   

"So right now they're anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of what we normally get," she says, creating what she describes as a nerve-wracking income shortage.

"I work with single parents," Navarro says. "I work with single family incomes and I've already heard them all talking about how they have to call the banks and try to put off car payments or mortgages."

Air traffic controllers employed by the Federal Aviation Administration are included in the 39 other government agencies who get paid biweekly on Tuesday.

She says their next paycheck will be nothing if the shutdown isn't resolved by Saturday. She's seeing it take a toll on morale at the Sea-Tac tower.

"You can see it kind of starting to shake and quiver but I think as this goes on longer and longer the morale's just going to completely sink."

It's an additional distraction that Navarro says they just don't need:

"Once we go through the gates we have to go up there with a clear head and we have to do our job because if not then it just leads to more problems for us."