Published: Tue, January 08, 2019
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

TSA workers calling in sick amid shutdown, union says; DHS denies

TSA workers calling in sick amid shutdown, union says; DHS denies

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners at airports are considered "essential" employees and are working without pay in the government shutdown that has entered a third week.

Though Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton called the story "fake news," the TSA has admitted that sick calls have increased.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) didn't respond to Fortune's request for comment.

At New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, as many as 170 TSA employees have called out each day this week, Thomas tells CNN.

There are 51,739 members of the Transportation Security Administration's airport security screening workforce, according to TSA spokesman Michael Bilello.

And that will happen if the shutdown continues, a union official from Dallas-Fortworth International Airport told CNN.

One unnamed federal official said the call-outs seemed to be part of a coordinated protest, but union officials said many employees who called out sick were most likely looking for alternative employment to make up for lost wages.

James Gregory, the deputy assistant administrator of public affairs for the TSA, said the agency is "not seeing any significant increases in average wait times or callouts".

"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.

Saturday morning on Twitter, President Donald Trump weighed in on the CNN report by praising Houlton's response.

According to the CNN report, that situation might be what's causing the increase in TSA agents calling in sick in recent days.

The problem will reportedly only worsen as the shutdown drags on and more paychecks are missed. Here's some tips to deal with serious security delays at airports that may arise due to the government shutdown.

TSA employees are required to work despite not receiving a paycheck during the government shutdown. 'Overall, 99.8 percent waited less than 30 minutes'. However, others are simply parents struggling to feed their families who have found temporary alternative ways to earn, or who have been forced to stay home because they can't afford to pay for child care costs since they've been told to work unpaid. To date, however, screening wait times remain well within TSA standards.

On Thursday and Friday, more than 4 million travelers nationwide were screened, Bilello said.

For security reasons, the agency does not release specific staffing numbers.

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