Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers are among the many employees of the US federal government who are not being paid during the partial government shutdown, which is now in its 31st day and has long since become the longest government shutdown in US history.
On Jan. 12, the day after TSA workers’ first missed paycheck, Bloomberg reported that 5.6% of TSA workers called in sick to work. Yesterday (Jan. 20), on day 30 of the shutdown, that number hit 10%, according to TSA data. For comparison’s sake, the unscheduled absence rate on the same day of 2018 was just 3.1%.
TSA reports that wait times haven’t been severely impacted over the holiday weekend; the vast majority of travelers are waiting less than 30 minutes in security lines. (Travelers in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, New Orleans, and New York’s LaGuardia experienced the longest maximum standard wait-times at 35, 45, and 29 minutes, respectively.)
The TSA has been tackling staff shortages by fast-tracking candidates at hiring events—but those workers still won’t be paid until the shutdown ends. In the meantime, nonprofit organizations, politicians, Canadian air-traffic controllers, airports, and the general public have been rewarding TSA employees who do come to work with pizza, boxed lunches, and other donated sundries.
“What gets you up every day and puts a smile on your face is all the help and outreach we’ve had from the community,” Kristena McCaig, a TSA employee at Arkansas’ Clinton National Airport, told KATV.
But of course, pizza doesn’t pay the bills, and McCaig was disappointed that she couldn’t spend time with her visiting daughter because her paid leave had been cancelled due to the shutdown. She blames politicians on both sides of the aisle.
“I hate to put it so plainly but I’d like them to all just do their jobs, the jobs we elected them for,” she said.