We thought we were done. At least we hoped we were.

We endured a 35-day shutdown. Then we got a reprieve, just before things got really bad: Canceled commercial flights, missed tax refunds, the whole bit.

Surely, we thought, Washington wouldn't let it happen again.

But then came the weekend. 

We got word of an impasse. People freaked. Congress got back at it and reached an agreement. 

Now, as I write this, we just don't know what comes next. President Trump apparently said he's "not happy" with the deal and might not be willing to sign it.

If that happens, we get the Shutdown Redux. Or as the union representing 50,000 flight attendants at United Airlines and several other airlines calls it: "Day 36." 

Wait, I'm sorry: flight attendants

Yes. Because they're the ones being lauded in some corners for having helped prompt the end of the 35-day shutdown we went through already. 

Not just them, of course. But the pressure they applied had an impact

When air traffic controllers started staying away from work in the waning days of the last shutdown, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA started calling for a general strike -- although technically, flight attendants aren't actually allowed to strike.

But most observers believe that the possibility they raised of widespread flight cancelations was part of what lead Trump and Congress to agree to a temporary truce.

Now, with a new shutdown looming (or perhaps the same shutdown, no longer reprieved) the flight attendants are back. 

This week, union president Sara Nelson was standing at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, calling for work stoppages across the United States if we wind up in a shutdown again.

"We are calling on the public on February 16," she said, as quoted by The Hill. "If we are in a day 36 of this shutdown for everyone to come to the airports."

Just to be clear: if you're thinking "Hmm, I don't think we've ever had a 'general strike' during my lifetime in the United States," you're right. 

They have them, or threaten them, in Europe occasionally. Within the United States it appears you have to go back to the late 19th century to find accounts. 

So, it would be an extraordinary step. Of course, so is shutting down the government and furloughing workers.

But that's sort of the point -- to put pressure on the government not to let this kind of thing happen again, even though airline passengers won't like it. You can only imagine how inconvenienced some people would be.

I asked the union yesterday whether they'll back off, if it starts to look likely that Trump change course and sign off on the agreement to keep the government open.

Not likely. "We continue to push forward on our planned actions continuing to pressure Congress to avoid Day 36 on February 16," union spokesperson Taylor Garland said.

Let's hope we don't have to find out what that really looks like.

Published on: Feb 13, 2019
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