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Canadian air traffic controllers gift U.S. colleagues affected by gov't shutdown with slice of solidarity

American air traffic controllers suffering from the U.S. government’s partial shutdown that began on Dec. 22 have been gifted stacks of pizza pies from their Canadian counterparts in an industry-wide show of support.

Peter Duffey, the head of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, said many union members had been looking for a way to show solidarity with their American colleagues, who have been working without pay due to the partial government shutdown.

The initiative began in Edmonton’s control centre on Thursday when employees mustered funds to buy pies for controllers in Anchorage, Alaska.

Since then other facilities have adopted the idea and sent their own support in cheesy, triangular form.

“The next thing we knew, our members were buying pizzas left, right and centre for the colleagues in the U.S,” Duffey said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon.

“As it stands right now, I believe we’re up to 36 facilities that have received pizza from Canada, and that number is growing by the hour.”

Duffey estimates that as of Sunday afternoon, approximately 300 pies have been received by American controllers in 36 facilities around the United States, many of whom took to social media to express their gratitude.

One controller was even so ecstatic with the act of philanthropy that he considered changing his opinion on Canadian hockey teams.

Duffey said one anonymous Canadian donor contributed $500 to the pizza fund, while another single-handedly bought lunch for two facilities in Phoenix, Arizona, to thank them for “taking care of all the snowbirds from Western Canada who go down for the winter.”

Ron Singer, the national media manager for Nav Canada, which manages the country’s civil air navigation, says Canadian and American air traffic controllers interact “on a daily basis” as they manage North American airspace.

“There’s a bond there, automatically,” he said in a phone interview.

He said that as of Sunday afternoon, Nav Canada employees from all of Canada’s seven control centres and many of its towers have bought lunch for their U.S. counterparts.

Some 10,000 air traffic controllers in the United States have been working without pay since late December due to the ongoing government shutdown.

Their union filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington on Friday, asking for an order compelling the government to pay them what they’re owed.

With files from The Canadian Press

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