Martin Ramirez, an air traffic controller out of Los Angeles, received an electronic pay stub Thursday morning. Everything on the stub looked normal, like his hourly rate and his employee ID number. But his payment for the two-week period ending Jan. 5 read $0.00.
The empty pay stub happened to hundreds of thousands of federal workers this week because of the extended government shutdown, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear solution to the problem. The shutdown started Dec. 22, and it will be the longest ever in U.S. history if it goes past Friday.
Ramirez and other members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association spent the last few days on Capitol Hill hitting up members of Congress and asking them to at least vote to fund the Federal Aviation Administration, which would allow air traffic controllers to get paid again. The House of Representatives passed that bill Thursday, but it’s unlikely to pass in the Senate under the current political climate.
Ramirez and fellow air traffic controller Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik joined a rally on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol Thursday, among several events organized by multiple unions in Washington this week.
Persiri-Dybvik’s situation is a little different than Ramirez’s. While he has to go to work without pay, she's in a role that makes her non-essential, meaning she is furloughed — not going to work and not getting paid. Both she and her husband work in air traffic control, so neither has a paycheck coming in. They have some savings, but they're also trying to rebuild the home they lost in a 2017 California wildfire.
They hope their personal stories, along with a show of force from federal workers throughout the country, will shape the political conversation so that it's about them rather than the politicians — who seem unable to agree on anything.
This segment originally aired Jan. 10, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.