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Unpaid Air Traffic Controllers Sue Federal Government

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) filed suit on Friday against President Donald Trump and others within the federal government.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) filed suit on Friday against President Donald Trump and others within the federal government.
Credit Mike Stewart / Associated Press

The union representing 15,000 of the nation’s air traffic controllers and their support staffs are set to ask for a temporary restraining order tomorrow in a D.C. federal court.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) filed suit on Friday against President Donald Trump and others within the federal government arguing that because their wages were withheld due to the government shutdown, their Constitutional rights were infringed upon.

“Our theory of this case is that there has now been an unlawful  taking in violation of the 5th Amendment due process rights under the United States Constitution,” said Molly Elkin, a D.C.-based attorney with Woodley & McGillivary representing NATCA’s union, on Friday.

In addition to the Constitutional argument, NATCA also alleges the federal government violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which guarantees U.S. workers a minimum wage. The union is asking for both back pay and overtime for its members, many of whom have worked for no pay since Dec. 23.

That includes hundreds of air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Atlanta Center in Hampton, as well as those who work the control tower at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

An expedited hearing on the suit  was scheduled for Monday, but winter weather forced its postponement. It’s now scheduled for tomorrow before Senior Judge Richard Leon, according to NATCA.

On Friday’s All Things Considered, Jim Burress spoke with WABE legal analyst Page Pate about NATCA’s legal theory, and what might happen if the court rules in NATCA’s favor.  Click the ‘play’ icon above to hear.