Fortunately the government isn’t shut down anymore, though late last year and early this year we had the longest partial government shutdown ever.
While federal workers weren’t being paid, it’s interesting what seemed to tip the scales in reopening the government. As the government shutdown lasted over a month, an increasing number of air traffic controllers called in sick, to the point that it looked like it could impact the integrity of the system.
With this — and the danger at large that this posted to the public — the government was reopened.
What’s interesting is one of the powerful voices behind the shutdown, in spite of herself not being a federal employee.
The New York Times ran a story yesterday about how the shutdown made Sara Nelson the country’s most powerful flight attendant. Now, in fairness, there aren’t many “powerful” flight attendants, at least in a mainstream sense. So arguably Ms. Nelson doesn’t have much competition there.
Sara Nelson is 45 years old and has been a United flight attendant for about 23 years, since 1996. She’s the President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, which represents over 50,000 flight attendants at over 20 airlines.
And it’s pretty incredible how much influence she has had well beyond internal airline issues. When it came to the government shutdown, she was one of the most vocal people about the dangers of not paying federal workers. She made several news appearances, she met with Bernie Sanders, she attended the State of the Union, etc.
For example, here’s part of a passionate speech she gave about how the shutdown was putting lives in danger:
And here’s a news appearance from her:
I’m not here to rewrite the whole New York Times story, but if you have a few minutes, I think it’s definitely worth a read. It’s fascinating to see not only the impact she has had with this current shutdown, but how she got to this point in her career, the sexism she has dealt with, and the impact she has had on the labor movement on the whole, as the number of workers who are unionized in the US has continued to decrease.
I suppose this is inherently political — my goal here isn’t to debate the merits of unions — but I do think the story is very interesting for anyone who likes airlines, especially as it gives you a sense of just how much of an impact someone in charge of an airline union could have on our government shutdown.