On January 9th, the Federal Aviation Administration sent a message to workers warning them about engaging in ‘political activity,’ according to emails obtained by The Young Turks.
“Employees are responsible for acquainting themselves with restrictions on partisan political activity and for not engaging in prohibited actions,” the email read. “It is important to ensure that remarks made in any forum regardless if made in connection with work or by a person identified as an FAA employee, comport with governing rules and regulations.”
This warning comes amid the fourth week of the record-breaking government shutdown, during which FAA employees have been working without pay.
In another, separate email, an FAA administrator warned employees that speaking out could have consequences. “Please be mindful of this guidance to avoid any unnecessary scrutiny,” they wrote.
One FAA employee responded to the email with criticism.
“Isn’t there also guidance about getting paid to work and forcing folks to work without pay being illegal?” they wrote, replying all to thousands of FAA employees.
“These people are not allowed to speak out. They are expected to work without pay, though,” the anonymous source who provided the emails told TYT.
“Not paying Air Traffic Controllers is akin to not paying ER doctors,” TYT’s source said. “These people are smart, have incredibly hard training and literally hold lives in their hands. They are continuing to show up without pay because they truly care about the safety of people within their care.”
There are currently 24,000 FAA employees working through the shutdown. Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled that the government did not have to pay federal employees currently being forced to work.
FAA unions say that the shutdown could pose a safety risk to air travel.
“Without a fully functioning FAA, a layer of safety is missing,” Mike Perrone, the national president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, told the New York Times.
“Every day that goes by that the government is shut down, safety is going to be compromised,” he added. “Every day that goes by, something could occur that causes a crack in the system.”
“People get on planes and think the pilot is in control,” TYT’s source said. “The pilot is not in control. They’re just hitting buttons. Controllers are keeping planes from hitting each other or the ground.”