Canadian air traffic controllers send pizzas to comrades without pay

David Heady and Julie Lytle, air traffic controllers in Portland, Maine, were two of the many American controllers treated to pizza by Canadian air traffic controllers

YA GOTTA LOVE WORKING FOLKS. They can always see through all the baloney and bullshit to do something good. That’s why Canadian air traffic controllers sent hundreds of pizzas to American air traffic controllers on January 11.

That Friday should have been a payday for the Americans—but it wasn’t. Donald Trump cancelled it. It is part of his political war with the Democrats in the American congress. The air controllers in the USA became ham in that sandwich. And so there are currently 14,000 air traffic controllers working without pay in the USA.

Many controllers literally got paycheques that said $0.00, and many are working overtime, holidays, nights, weekends, and work in facilities that are already very short-staffed due to Trump’s budget cuts.

Solidarity by the slice

Canadian air controllers wanted to demonstrate their solidarity with their American comrades and do something practical to boost their spirits. They decided to send pizzas.

It started on January 10 with air controllers in Edmonton, Alberta. They decided to send pizzas to the controllers in Anchorage, Alaska and later Salt Lake City, Utah. The units are so close that they regularly interact. Then the CATCA (Canadian Air Traffic Control Association) units in Gander, N.L., and Moncton, N.B., ordered 32 pizzas for all of their comrades at the control centre on Long Island, New York.

The idea took hold, and other units sent pizza to the controllers with whom they share airspace.

As the idea grew the Canadians started randomly selecting other units in the USA to send pizza to—sometimes based on similarities they feel they share. Fort McMurray, Alberta for example, chose to buy pizzas for a unit in El Paso, Texas, because it is also an oil town.

Montreal Centre sent Boston Center pizza, while Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport sent pizza to their counterparts in Burlington, Vt. and LaGuardia, N.Y.

Toronto’s area centre sent pizza to their colleagues at Cleveland Center, while Vancouver bought pizza for Seattle Center.

Winnipeg Tower sent dinner to the controllers at the Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport tower on Sunday night, and already covered Grand Forks’ lunch on Saturday.

The goodwill became infectious. There have been instances when American pilots have checked in to Canadian airspace and greeted their Canadian colleagues over the radio with messages of thanks on behalf of the controllers.

‘As grassroots as it gets’

Peter Duffey, president of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, confirmed the whole pizza on-slot  was something that the CATCA members did on their own. He also emphasized that the official employer, Nav Canada, had nothing to do with it and that the initiative was entirely employee-based.

“This is as grassroots as it gets, with our members just jumping on board this like crazy,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of what my members are doing.

“In the big scheme of things, sending some pizzas to people that are missing paychecks is a small gesture,” said Duffey, “but the message it carries is big.”

Doug Church, deputy director of public affairs with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in the USA, said his members were thrilled about the pizzas.

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