Flight attendants and other private-sector aviation unions will “shut down” the aviation system if parts of the federal government close again on Feb. 16, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants said Feb. 11.

“On any given day, aviation workers can make a determination that conditions are not safe” and refuse to board an airplane because of their concerns, AFA President Sara Nelson said during a press briefing at Reagan National Airport, which serves the Washington metropolitan area. If the system as a whole isn’t safe, flight attendants and other aviation employees can make a broader determination not to work, she said.

“This is not a strike. We want the aviation system running. What we’re saying is that the action or inaction of Congress is going to ground our airlines,” Nelson said.

The AFA, an AFL-CIO affiliate, represents about 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, according to the union’s website.

Support Action, Feds Urged

Nelson earlier Feb. 11 discussed the possibility of what would essentially be a strike at a federal employee union conference.

“I don’t want you near that,” Nelson told members of the American Federation of Government Employees, referencing the fact that federal employees don’t have the right to strike. But AFGE members still can support the aviation employees, including by showing up at rallies, she said.

Nelson during her afternoon press briefing made a broader call for the public to support aviation employees who will be picketing on Feb. 16 if there’s another government shutdown.

“If Congress chooses chaos, we’re calling on the public to join us,” she said.

The AFGE, an AFL-CIO affiliate, represents about 700,000 federal and District of Columbia government employees, making it the largest federal union. The AFGE’s membership includes federal airport screeners employed by the Transportation Security Administration, which has a total of about 60,000 employees.

About 800,000 federal employees were either told not to work or forced to work without getting paid on time during a 35-day shutdown that ended Jan. 25. The same employees may face a second government shutdown beginning Feb. 16 if Congress and President Donald Trump can’t agree on new legislation to provide continued funding to nine departments and other agencies because of a continuing dispute over a Southern border wall and immigration.