A mounting number of Transportation Security Administration officers aren’t showing up to work because they’re facing financial difficulties thanks to the government shutdown, and now members of the aviation industry are voicing concerns, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Lori Bassani, who heads the Texas-based Association of Professional Flight Attendants says they depend on the TSA to keep them safe on the job.
"TSA workers are an instrumental part of the aviation industry, ensuring the safety and security of our crews and passengers every day. As Flight Attendants, we feel safer due to the important service our AFGE Brothers and Sisters provide. Today and every day we stand shoulder to shoulder with AFGE members and urge the Government to end this shutdown and pay their employees for their critical part in keeping our country secure," she says.
According to the TSA, there are about 51,000 workers calling in sick. Most, anecdotally, are looking for other work, thanks to mounting bills. The 420,000 airport screeners are among the government employees affected by the shutdown, which is now in its 28th day.
The lack of screeners have sent airports across the country scrambling. Houston's Bush Intercontinental closed one terminal in response to “staffing issues." Passengers were shifted to two other terminals. Officials advised that travelers arrive early so they have "“plenty of time" for the change.
TSA officers make about $35,000 a year, and with bills piling up, and no end to the shutdown, there are concerns that agents still on the job are not focused on security.
Bassani says all it takes is for one bad guy to take advantage of an agent having a bad day to create another disaster.
"We feel much safer when our passengers are screened and allowed to pass through security knowing that, once they get on the aircraft, we're safer."