U.S. Senator Tim Kaine announced that his guest at Tuesday’s State of the Union Address will be National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President and air traffic controller Paul Rinaldi of Manassas, VA. NATCA represents thousands of air traffic controllers, many of whom were hurt by the recent government shutdown.
“I’m thankful Paul Rinaldi will join me as my guest to the State of the Union on Tuesday,” said Kaine. “As a leader of thousands of hardworking air traffic controllers, Paul knows the pain that federal workers endured during the shutdown and the threat to public safety it posed. I hope his presence on Tuesday serves as a reminder that we need to ensure Americans don’t go through that again.”
“On behalf of the 20,000 men and women aviation safety professionals represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), I am tremendously honored to accompany Senator Kaine to the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Senator Kaine supported NATCA’s membership before the recent government shutdown and was a big source of support and inspiration during the shutdown when he spoke out against using our members and their salaries as bargaining chips in the political debate that took place. He rightly recognizes the economic engine that aviation provides for our country, and the fierce dedication to safety and professionalism that our members exhibit on every shift in Federal Aviation Administration facilities in Virginia and nationwide. We safely move nearly a billion passengers and 39 billion pounds of freight through the National Airspace System each year. Senator Kaine has helped lead the effort in the Senate to support a stable, predictable funding stream for aviation, which in turn is the support that our members need to continue to perform their important jobs at the highest level of focus and dedication,” said Rinaldi.
As they worked to reopen government, Rinaldi joined Kaine in highlighting how the shutdown was hurting federal employees and jeopardizing public safety. During the shutdown, Rinaldi raised concerns that tired and distracted air traffic controllers were suffering from severe stress and might be more likely to make mistakes after having to work second jobs to make ends meet. Rinaldi also warned that it could take years to rebound from the impacts of the shutdown.
Kaine has introduced legislation to end the threat of future shutdowns and the senseless pain they inflict on federal employees like air traffic controllers. During the shutdown, Kaine objected to the Senate going out of session, which resulted in him securing passage of legislation to guarantee back pay for federal employees and he is working to ensure contractors will receive back pay as well. Virginia is home to 170,000 federal employees and tens of thousands of federal contractors.