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Shutdown 2.0 would be an 'unprecedented betrayal': union president

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

As the deadline for a border wall deal looms, one union leader is calling for a general strike if the federal government shuts down again.

Current funding for the government runs out on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 12:01 a.m. ET. While a deal is expected to be passed by Friday, some lawmakers are considering Monday — Monday, Feb. 11 — as an unofficial deadline. The buffer is to ensure the legislation has enough time to go through Congress.

If lawmakers can’t meet the deadline, the failure would be an “unprecedented betrayal of the government against the worker,” Association of Flight Attendants- CWA president Sara Nelson told Yahoo Finance.

In retaliation, Nelson’s union, which has nearly 50,000 members, has planned for a general strike again on Feb. 16 in major airports around the country if the government shuts down.

“Unprecedented times call for an unprecedented response,” said Nelson. “This is a really moral question in addition to fighting for our entire economy and safety and security of economy.”

A furloughed government worker wears a shirt that reads "GOP Bogus Bills Don't Count" during a silent protest against the ongoing partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. Protesters held up disposable plates instead of posters to avoid being arrested. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Shutdown causing a “humanitarian crisis”

Nelson, who has been a flight attendant for 23 years and has been the head of the flight attendants’ union since 2014, had previously made the same forceful call in January — calling for a general strike on the back of the first shutdown.

In a press release, she said: “There is a humanitarian crisis unfolding right now for our 800,000 federal sector sisters and brothers who are either locked out of work or forced to come to work without pay due to the government shutdown.”

‘We’ve seen this movie before’

The previous shutdown — which lasted 35 days, the longest in history — came to a screeching halt after the Federal Aviation Administration stopped flights coming in to New York’s LaGuardia airport because of a shortfall of air traffic controllers.

While the halt was lifted shortly after, delays ensued across the East Coast, including Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville.

An Delta Airlines jet takes off from LaGuardia Airport, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in New York. New York Gov. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Pointing to that episode, Nelson said that it showed how the shutdown hurt the aviation industry, which she said “connects our entire country [and] supports 11 million jobs.” That translates to a “a rippling effect that would really harm all of our communities and all of our people,” she added.

“We’ve seen this movie before, we’ve been through the bankruptcies… we are racing to make sure this wouldn’t happen… we just cannot go into day 36 of the shutdown,” she said.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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