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Government Shutdown: 6 More Federal Jobs that Are Vital to America's Families

Photo by Rep. Keith Ellison/Flickr

Last week, we gave you a dozen examples of the vital work that locked-out federal employees are being prevented from doing, thanks to the irresponsible House Republican government shutdown now in its second week. Republican House leaders are still refusing to do the right thing and allow a vote on funding and reopening the government.

Here’s a look at six more of the jobs that shut-down workers—or those still on the job but not getting paid—perform and some of the key government services we all count on that are idled.      

1. Aviation Safety Inspectors. Every day, tens of millions of Americans are in the air, on the rails and roads and on buses and subways expecting safe travel, but likely giving little thought to the federal workers whose job it is to get them safely from point A to point B. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has furloughed 3,000 aviation safety inspectors. The inspectors check to make sure airlines are maintaining their planes safely, conduct inspections at airports of planes and pilots and visit domestic and foreign repair stations where airlines send planes for major overhauls, among other safety jobs. Other aviation experts are on the job but without pay.

On Tuesday evening at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., aviation specialists from the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) and from unions of the Connecticut AFL-CIO staged an informational picket to alert the flying public about the possible safety issues because of the Republican government. Says PASS President Mike Perrone:

Sidelining aviation safety inspectors, who are crucial employees, for even a day is unacceptable and exposes the aviation system to unnecessary risk... Congress must immediately work to end the shutdown and put an end to undermining the critical work these inspectors perform.

2. Air Traffic Controllers. Members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) are in the towers and control centers still guiding you safely home but are doing so without pay. Says NATCA President Paul Rinaldi:

The uncertainty created by this shutdown is only adding to an already stressful work environment. Promises of back pay amount to nothing more than IOU’s while bills pile up and frustration mounts

3. Transportation Safety Inspectors. Because of the irresponsible shutdown that House Speaker John Boehner  (R-Ohio) engineered, nearly all investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board have been locked out of their jobs and are unable to search for causes of several recent fatal accidents, including a Tennessee bus crash that left eight people dead and 14 more injured, a plane crash that killed four in Santa Monica, Calif., and an explosion in a Washington, D.C., Metro tunnel near one of the line’s busiest stations that killed one worker and seriously injured two others.

The House Republican shutdown has put workers at risk, too.

4. OSHA Inspectors. At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, where 90% of its inspection force has been locked out, routine and targeted inspections have ground to a halt along with most workplace injury and fatality investigations. Safety experts warn that construction workers could be at the biggest risk, but workers in other high hazard industries such as chemical and steel could also see dangers increase.

5. Mine Inspectors. After furloughing 1,400 employees, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has been reduced to conducting only targeted inspections at high hazard mines. The agency has been forced to forgo the required quarterly complete inspection of every underground mine. Last week, three coal miners were killed on the job in separate incidents on consecutive days. It was the first time since 2002 there were coal mine fatalities three days in a row.     

While the deaths occurred at nonunion mines, Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts said that because of the shutdown, “The government’s watchdog isn’t watching.”

The circumstances surrounding each of these fatalities are different, and I do not want to draw immediate conclusions as to their causes based on incomplete evidence at this time. But it is extremely troubling that within a week after the federal government shutdown caused the normal system of mine safety inspection and enforcement to come to a halt, three miners are dead.

With lack of the regular and required inspections, he said, “Safety violations that would normally be caught and corrected as a result of those inspections are being missed.”

Even the smallest violations, when allowed to accumulate, can lead to dangerous conditions very quickly in a coal mine.

6. Food Inspectors. We all have to eat, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, charged with inspecting the nation’s food supply, has furloughed 60% percent of its 1,600 investigators and says it’s halted “routine domestic or international inspections of food facilities.”

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

91% of seafood that Americans consume, which the United States imports, is not being inspected, currently. The same goes for the nearly 50% of fruits and 20% of vegetables consumed in the U.S. but imported from abroad.

Bon appétit!

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