The government shutdown has represented a challenging time for the many federal workers who have not received pay as a result of the government's closure. Among others, these employees include air traffic controllers, who have worked without compensation since late December. Last week, Canadian air traffic controllers' government shutdown response used pizza to show solidarity with their American counterparts — and the result was pretty inspiring.
The Associated Press (AP) reported on Sunday that Canadian air traffic controllers have purchased hundreds of pizzas for their American peers in a show of support amidst the lingering U.S. government shutdown. The outlet noted that the initiative began on Jan. 10, when Canadian air traffic controllers in Edmonton began raising funds to buy pizzas for American controllers in Anchorage, Alaska.
Other Canadian air traffic control centers soon got word of their colleagues' pizza-buying initiative and also decided to join in. “The next thing we knew, our members were buying pizzas left, right and center for the colleagues in the U.S,” Peter Duffey, the head of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, told the AP. “As it stands right now, I believe we’re up to 36 facilities that have received pizza from Canada, and that number is growing by the hour.”
Duffy also told CNN that American air traffic controllers have been very touched by the gesture. The response has been "very, very heartwarming," he said to the network. Duffy noted that some American pilots have checked in to Canadian airspace by thanking them for the pizza on behalf of American controllers, CNN reported. "In the big scheme of things, sending some pizzas to people that are missing paychecks is a small gesture," he said to CNN, "but the message that it sends them is a big gesture."
Indeed, it is evident from social media that American air traffic control facilities very much appreciate the Canadians' support. For example, an air traffic control center in Maine shared a photograph of two employees holding pizza, along with the caption:
Thanks to our friends to the north at Moncton Center for the pizza! Good to know we have people out there who actually care and want to help in a time of need! If only our own government officials would do something ...
Doug Church, the deputy director of public affairs at the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in the United States, also told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that American controllers — 14,000 of whom are currently working unpaid — are grateful for the support. "It's just a really good shot in the arm of positive energy and positive emotion to know that, 'Hey they've got our back,'" Church told the CBC. "On behalf of the entire NATCA and air traffic control around this country, we extend our thanks and our gratitude."
As the government shutdown continues to linger without a clear end in sight, thoughtful gestures like pizza donations from Canadian air traffic controllers can go a long way in helping sustain federal employees' morale. As David Lombardo, a former air traffic controller who runs an industry social media site, told the CBC, "It's [the shutdown's] been so overwhelmingly negative and it's nice to see that there's solidarity out there."