As more and more federal security screeners at airports refuse to work without pay, the Miami International Airport was forced to shut down one of its terminals and send TSA workers from that location to busier checkpoints in the airport in order to maintain an appropriate level of security at the bustling facility.
Federal screeners are calling in sick at double the normal rate for Miami, reported the Miami Herald, and TSA managers aren’t sure they’ll have enough workers to operate all 11 checkpoints during normal hours while the government shutdown looms, said Miami International Airport spokesman Greg Chin.
The terminal that was shut down is used by United, Bahamasair, Frontier Airlines, Aruba Airline and Sun Country. It was shut down for significant periods of time during the weekend, a schedule that was supposed to continue into Monday and possible throughout the coming week.
A spokeswoman with United issued a statement predicting that passengers would not be impacted by the potentially nightmarish logistic rearrangement.
The airport’s strategy was to drop off passengers at the closed terminal, but once the security checkpoint closed, outbound passengers would not have access to the gates, restaurants and shops, and they would be shut down, too.
Since the government shutdown started December 22, TSA screeners have been working without pay. TSA workers missed their first paycheck, which others believed would prompt even more of them to call in sick and drop shifts.
Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN that across the country, the government shutdown was impacting airports.
“This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect,” Thomas said.
TSA spokesman Michael Bilello told CNN the agency is “closely monitoring the situation” and that “screening wait times remain well within TSA standards,” although that would change if the number of call-outs continued to increase.
At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, upwards of 170 TSA employees have been called in sick almost every day. Those TSA officers who did show up without pay were required to work extra hours to cover the shifts.
At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, an estimated 25 to 30 TSA employees call in sick per shift, reported CNN. Since the government shutdown, that number has increased by 200 to 300 percent.
“TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs,” a union official at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport told CNN.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske told reporters at a Washington-area airport that “we’ve never had a situation where officers did not get paid.”
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