Orlando air traffic controllers cope with shutdown, collect food donations

ORLANDO, Fla. — Air traffic controllers at Orlando International Airport are doing their best to cope with the impacts of the government shutdown.

They’re feeling the effects on the clock and in their wallets.

"My kids are asking me, are we going to be able to pay our mortgage? Are we going to be able to pay our phone bill? Are we going to keep the lights on? Do we need to give up school activities? So, from a personal standpoint, this is where it's a lot harder to quantify," said air traffic controller Ken Scheele.

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On Wednesday morning, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association will be at OIA to talk to passengers about the safety issues they're now facing.

They said air traffic controllers are already dealing with a staffing crisis.

According to the air traffic controller union, they've been dealing with a worker shortage since the last government shutdown in 2013.

And now, those who are working are doing so without pay thanks to the government shutdown.

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Unlike most workers who can strike when they aren't happy with their employer, by law federal workers are not allowed to strike.

So they’re turning to different tactics to get their voices heard. On  Wednesday they'll be handing out leaflets explaining how the shutdown results in air traffic controllers being compelled to work without a timely paycheck and causes staffing problems.

Unlike furloughed federal workers, air traffic controllers are considered essential workers, so they have to work whether they get paid or not.

Thousands of airport employees across the country are working without pay.

But others are stepping up to help lend a hand.

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Some airlines are organizing food pantries. OIA’s airline management council is holding one Wednesday in terminal A by Frontier Airlines.

They’re accepting non-perishable food items,  toiletries and  baby supplies, all of which must be unopened. No other items – cash, gift cards, clothing, etc. – will be accepted.

The food pantry will be open for donations Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Businesses in Central Florida are also offering discounts to federal employees during the government shutdown.

Pollo Tropical is selling some meals at the discounted price of $2.99. And Kings Dining and Entertainment is offering free bowling and shoe rentals for federal employees and their families.

You must show your federal government employee ID in order to get those discounts.