Airports seeing rise in security screeners calling off work during shutdown

Larry Hoffman
January 8, 2019

More than 150 called out Friday from Kennedy International Airport in New York City, according to the paper. The lack of workers led to officers from earlier shifts having to cover the evenings.

CNN is standing by its reporting on TSA employees calling out sick during the shutdown in large numbers.

DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton went on to deny the report.

He posted online: 'Security operations at airports have not been impacted by a non-existent sick out'.

"To date, screening wait times remain well within TSA standards", he added.

Union leaders said Friday that hundreds of TSA workers at major airports nationwide are off the job because they can't afford to get there. The normal call-in rate is 3.5 percent, and yesterday it increased to 5.5 percent, according to TSA. The official said some union members can not pay for child care, while others are taking temporary jobs to earn the cash needed to pay bills.

CNN's Rene Marsh and Greg Wallace spoke with two senior agency officials and three TSA employee union officials about the sick-outs. "All essential personnel are still on the job and there is no impact to the airport from the federal government shutdown".

Jonathan Dean, a BWI spokesman, said the airport is "monitoring the situation and working closely with our TSA counterpart".

"This is our third shutdown in a year", Bilello said, "so we have some experience and we take it one day at a time".

The agency said the call outs are causing "minimal impact" because of the 51,739 employees supporting the screening process.

The president is meeting with a group this weekend he assembled to tackle the issue and hopefully find a solution.

But federal officials reportedly believe the "blue flu" - TSA uniforms are blue - has all the hallmarks of a coordinated protest against the shutdown.

"TSA is grateful to the agents who show up to work, remain focused on the mission and respectful to the traveling public as they continue the important work necessary to secure the nation's transportation systems", he said. Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change.

Some of those officers, who are living paycheck to paycheck, are parents who will be more distracted from their work. Yesterday, TSA screened over 2.2 million passengers, ' the statement continued. Airports struggling to staff checkpoints may also start reducing the number of lanes open to passengers, which will likely mean longer lines and waiting times.

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