Unions say TSA workers can't afford to man checkpoints without a paycheck

Transportation Security Administration agents walk on the departures level a day after a shooting that killed one Transportation Security Administration worker and injured several others at Los Angeles International Airport

Unions say TSA workers can't afford to man checkpoints without a paycheck

With the federal government shutdown nearing its third week, CNN on Friday reported a dramatic increase in the amount of TSA agents - who have been required to continue working without paychecks - calling out sick.

Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN that up to 170 TSA employees at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport have called out each day this week. The lack of workers led to officers from earlier shifts having to cover the evenings.

People working at the airport tell 7 Action News off camera they have not seen or heard of any call offs from TSA because of the government shutdown at Detroit Metro Airport.

TSA spokesman Michael Bilello also tried to quash the rumors but inadvertently confirmed them, revealing that a full 5.5 percent of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport's TSA force called in sick on Friday - significantly more than the typical 3.5 percent.

How did the DHS respond?

For now, I'd personally recommend getting to the airport the full three hours before your flight is expected to leave, just in case you run into trouble when you're trying to make it through security.

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". During the government shutdown TSA employees, as well as hundreds of thousands of other federal employees, are not being paid, though TSA agents are still required to show up to work.

Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham airports in North Carolina had a 10 percent increase in absences according to union president Mac Johnson, and numbers across the country were predicted to get worse when employees notice the difference on payday.

"TSA is closely monitoring the situation", the agency statement said.

And that will happen if the shutdown continues, a union official from Dallas-Fortworth International Airport told CNN. The spokesperson said 99.8% of 2.2 million passengers screened on January 3 waited less than 30 minutes.

The Department of Homeland Security press secretary said this is all a bunch of bologna.

For now, Donald Trump and congressional leaders have met but have yet to find a resolution that will end the shutdown.

Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman for the Baltimore area, said she is on furlough until further notice as a non-essential employee. 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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