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FAA Slams Door on Houston Controllers’ Families during Rita - (9/26/2005)

CONTACT: Andrew LeBovidge, 713-301-0195; Eric Labardini, 832-860-4108

HOUSTON – In a move that reinforces recent survey results cementing the Federal Aviation Administration’s lowly position as the worst place to work in government, the agency last week waited until the last possible moment to tell controllers at Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center their families were not allowed in the facility as Hurricane Rita directly threatened the area.

“Before Hurricane Rita arrived, everyone assumed it would be devastating for the Houston area. Our controllers were torn between family and work obligations,” said Eric Labardini, a representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association at Houston Center. “Some of these controllers who were scheduled to work over the weekend sent their families out of town and some just had them ride out the storm at home while they worked.”

Because FAA management was so slow in deciding to refuse to allow families into the facility, Labardini added, “Many still had families in town. They did not evacuate their families early because they believed our employer would allow their family in considering the danger such a storm would pose. But the FAA didn’t budge.”

Early in the day last Friday, a single mother showed up at the facility with her son. She was scheduled to work an overnight shift Friday night. Knowing there was a possibility that she would not be able to make it to work, she came in early. But she was forced off the premises because she brought her son.

“The FAA’s heartless actions, while not surprising, stand in stark contrast to other employers of essential personnel in Houston, who went out of their way to protect employees and their families,” Labardini said. “One hospital even went so far as to allow pets in. Yet our controllers were forced to choose between family and work.”

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