Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers are among the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are required to work without pay during this partial government shutdown.
But as the shutdown enters its 14th day, the workers are starting to take a stand — by calling in sick.
According to CNN, the numbers are starting to grow: As many as 170 TSA employees at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York called in each day this past week; at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, call-ins have increased by 200 to 300 percent; at North Carolina airports, they have increased by 10 percent.
“This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.
Union officials stressed that this is not a mass organized action, but rather a collection of individual responses to the financial inconvenience of working without pay checks. Some workers, yes, are calling in sick in protest.
However, others are doing it for more practical reasons: Even though it is likely they will receive back pay once the government officially re-opens, many TSA employees live paycheck-to-paycheck, and are calling in sick because they can’t afford child care right now, or because they need to pick up other jobs to help make ends meet until their TSA paychecks resume.
The situation is expected to get worse as the pay-less days continue.
“This problem of call-outs is really going to explode over the next week or two when employees miss their first paycheck,” a union official at DFW told CNN. “TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs.”
Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to the government shutdown in sight.