ORLANDO, Fla. — On day 32 of the partial government shutdown, everything for the most part continues to run smoothly at Orlando International Airport. But federal airport workers say they don’t know how much longer they can work without pay.
- Federal employees deemed "essential" working without pay
- Brothers N Arms BBQ is the latest business to bring lunch for workers
- Workers starting to wonder how much longer they can go without pay
- RELATED: How to Get Help if You're a Federal Worker
Doug Lowe says working without pay is taking its toll.
“I can feel the stress and uncertainty weighing on me,” said Lowe, a Federal Aviation Administration employee and member of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, one of eight FAA unions.
“I wake up in the morning and I’m like, 'man, I’ve got to go in again,'” Lowe said. “And we don’t know when we’re going to get paid, and how long can we carry on this way.”
Federal employees will eventually get back pay when the shutdown, now at record length, ends. However, they will go without pay checks for the time being.
Also, as of right now, contract workers are not expected to get backpay.
Lowe’s job, which in part makes sure air traffic controllers’ equipment stays up and running, is considered essential, therefore he must work without pay during the partial government shutdown.
On Tuesday, Lowe at least didn’t have to worry about paying for lunch. One of his fellow Marines had that covered.
“That’s a brotherhood that can never be broken,” said Joel Dawson, owner of Brothers N Arms BBQ in Orlando.
Dawson and Lowe go way back.
“He went into the Marine Corps, I went into the Marine Corps, and we went our separate ways,” Lowe said.
When Dawson heard what Lowe was going through, he says he knew what he had to do.
“My job in the Marine Corps was to cook, and I never want a Marine to go without eating. So that’s why I’m here today — to make sure these guys are eating,” Dawson said.
Dawson dropped off food for Lowe and dozens of airport workers, including air traffic controllers.
“You’re putting the lives of U.S. citizens at risk because of some type of miscommunication in Congress. So my message is let’s all come together collectively until they figure this thing out,” Dawson said.
“To contact me and say, 'hey man, I want to bring you lunch' – that’s that extra motivation boost to say, 'alright. I’m doing the right thing going into work and keeping this going,'” Lowe said. “I think it’s in the worse situations the best people rise and show you there’s still love there.”
A representative for the American Federation of Government Employees, a union that represents TSA workers who work for the FAA, says he also wonders how much longer they can go on without pay.
Ivan Hernandez says TSA security is still running smoothly thanks to workers in Orlando making it their mission to show up to work so that air travelers stay safe.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article mischaracterized Lowe's employment with the FAA. It implied he was a contract worker, which is incorrect. He is, in fact, an FAA employee who is also member of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, a union representing FAA workers. The story was updated Wednesday, January 23, to reflect the correction.