WASHINGTON — National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President and air traffic controller Paul Rinaldi of Manassas, Virginia, will accompany Virginia’s junior senator Tim Kaine to the State of the Union Tuesday.
The offer to attend by Sen. Kaine comes as Rinaldi represented thousands of air traffic controllers, a number of whom were impacted by the government shutdown that carried on for weeks after both Democrats and Republicans could not manage to find a solution on paying for certain border safety measures. Specifically, a border wall wanted by the White House and Trump administration.
“I’m thankful Paul Rinaldi will join me as my guest to the State of the Union on Tuesday,” said Kaine. “As a leader of thousands of hardworking air traffic controllers, Paul knows the pain that federal workers endured during the shutdown and the threat to public safety it posed. I hope his presence on Tuesday serves as a reminder that we need to ensure Americans don’t go through that again.”
During the shutdown, Kaine objected to the Senate going out of session, which resulted in him securing passage of legislation to guarantee back pay for federal employees and he is working to ensure contractors will receive back pay as well, according to the Senator’s office.
“On behalf of the 20,000 men and women aviation safety professionals represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), I am tremendously honored to accompany Sen. Kaine to the State of the Union address on Tuesday night,” said Rinaldi. “We safely move nearly a billion passengers and 39 billion pounds of freight through the National Airspace System each year. Senator Kaine has helped lead the effort in the Senate to support a stable, predictable funding stream for aviation, which in turn is the support that our members need to continue to perform their important jobs at the highest level of focus and dedication.”
Virginia is home to 170,000 federal employees and tens of thousands of federal contractors.
Both Sen. Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner held a news conference during the government shutdown at Ronald Reagan International Airport to highlight how air traffic controllers and TSA members were being impacted by the shutdown.