On Friday, workers with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association were among the thousands of U.S. federal workers who awoke to find that they had not received a paycheck amid the government shutdown.
So, employees of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association wanted to do something to cheer up their U.S. eqivalents.
“It all started in an area control center in Edmonton [Alberta] where a few CATCA members were talking about the inevitable impact that the government shutdown must be having on their US counterparts,” Tania Calverley, communications director for the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, tells PEOPLE.
“They started to brainstorm a little bit, you know, what could they do that would just, kind of, show them that they were thinking of them. They decided, ‘who doesn’t like pizza? Let’s try to send pizza.’ “
So that’s what they did. The controllers in Edmonton sent four large pizzas to workers at a NATCA facility in Anchorage, Alaska, on Jan. 10.
“Their watch commander had called the Edmonton controllers back saying morale is high and there are plenty of smiles,” Calverley recalls of the Anchorage workers’ reactions to the pizza.
After word got out about the good deed, controllers at other CATCA facilities followed suit, paying for pizzas “out of their own wallets and purses.” So far, “well over” 350 pizzas have been sent to at least 60 NATCA facilities from Los Angeles to New York.
“It was a pizza explosion,” Calverley says. “I think that says a lot when, really a small gesture of kindness and care such as sending pizza can garner so much attention. I think that says a lot about how important it is to do small kind things and be supportive of each other.”
Photos from the U.S. facilities showed smiling workers enjoying the pizza and posing with “thank you” notes to their Canadian counterparts.
The government shutdown began on Dec. 22, over a stalemate instigated by President Donald Trump for his proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a tent pole of his presidential campaign. An estimated 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay, according to NBC News.
NATCA has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for failing to pay the controllers amid the government shutdown, according to The Hill. The shutdown is now the longest in US history.
However, it seems CATCA members have found a way to spread a bit of joy amidst the frustration.
“Pizza isn’t going to fix everything but it’s a gesture, a sign from our controllers to them that we understand and we feel for them and we’re thinking of them,” Calverley says.