ATLANTA — Federal workers are facing a payday without a paycheck on Friday as a result of the ongoing federal shutdown. As a result, more than 50,000 TSA officers and staff are having to work while being uncertain about when they will be paid again.
"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 for work without knowing when they'll be paid again," said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).
AFGE, which represents more than 44,000 TSA officers, sued the federal government last week on behalf of AFGE members and federal employees being forced to work without pay.
Their statement on the lawsuit said, in part, that "requiring them to work without pay is nothing short of inhumane."
Heidi Burakiewicz, partner with the Washington-based law firm bringing the suit on behalf of the union, Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch (KCNF DC), said that the suit was brought on behalf of all so-called "essential" federal employees who are required to work without pay during the shutdown.
"Approximately 420,000 federal employees are continuing to work, but don't know when they will get their next paychecks," Burakiewicz said. "This is not an acceptable way for any employer, let alone the US government, to treat its employees. These employees still need to pay childcare expenses, buy gas, and incur other expenses to go to work every day and yet, they are not getting paid. It is a blatant violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act."
More than a week ago, reports began to surface of sick-outs and call-offs from TSA employees who would not or simply could not work for potential hardships. Many of the cited hardships included the cost of childcare, the cost of transportation or simply other living expenses that prohibit them from getting to work.
According to a new report on Wednesday from CNN, excessive absences by TSA officers working without pay have adversely impacted security operations at the Palm Springs International Airport, according to an internal email quoted by a CNN report.
The CNN report said that the deputy federal security director overseeing Palm Springs, Los Angeles International Airport and three other southern California airports warned in the email of disciplinary action for employees at Palm Springs should they have unscheduled absences.
A January 8 statement from TSA officials said that callouts nationwide were having minimal impact.
TSA's assistant administrator for public affairs, Michael Bilello disagreed with the reports, tweeting on Wednesday that security standards hadn't been compromised. He went on to say that any reports to the contrary were misleading.
In addition, Bilello said that on Tuesday, passengers at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, waited a maximum of 28 minutes.
As of Wednesday morning at 11:30 a.m., security wait times at Hartsfield-Jackson are between 15-and-30 minutes at the Main, North and South checkpoints, as well as at the International Checkpoint.