At first, Transportation Security Administration screeners were just calling out sick from work. Now, some are quitting altogether, their union says.
In a statement released Tuesday, the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents the workers, warned that safety could take a big hit in transit hubs as the federal government shutdown drags into week three, leaving staff without pay.
“Every day I’m getting calls from my members about their extreme financial hardships and need for a paycheck,” said Hydrick Thomas, the organization’s TSA Council president. “Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown. The loss of officers, while we’re already shorthanded, will create a massive security risk for American travelers since we don’t have enough trainees in the pipeline or the ability to process new hires.”
Last week, AFGE launched a lawsuit against the federal government for forcing federal employees to show up to work uncompensated, calling the demands “inhumane.”
Around that time, the union said TSA agents were starting to skip work. The situation now appearing to be escalating.
In addition to raising security issues, fewer staffers on duty would increase wait times with longer lines at airports.
“It is completely unacceptable that the women and men who risk their lives safeguarding our airports are still required to report for work without knowing when they’ll be paid again,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.
Cox argued that compared with other agencies, the workers are facing tougher conditions and lackluster wages, making the shutdown especially grueling.
“TSA Officers already have the least amount of rights of any federal officer, some of the lowest pay and highest attrition rates in government, and among the lowest morale of any federal agency. Working for weeks on end without being compensated ― while already being short-staffed ― only makes their situation worse,” he said.
The federal government spiraled into a partial shutdown last month over Congress’ inability to pass a spending bill including President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall funding. He’s seeking more than $5 billion, but Democrats have yet to budge and no end to the impasse is in sight.
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