Friday, January 04 2019

Why scores of TSA workers are calling in sick during government shutdown Featured

Written by NYpost

As many as 170 TSA officers are calling in sick each day at JFK Airport rather than work without a paycheck during the partial government shutdown, raising serious security concerns.

Mass sickouts among the officers who screen baggage and passengers are affecting at least three other major airports, CNN reported, citing senior agency officials and union honchos at the Transportation Security Administration.

“It sucks not being paid,” one TSA officer at JFK told The Post Friday night. “People are frustrated.” So far, he said, his colleagues are only calling out sick “here and there.” But he added, ominously, “Wait until this weekend.”

Two TSA sources told CNN that the sickouts are protests over not being paid as the shutdown begins its third week — with one calling it the “blue flu,” referring to the uniforms worn by screeners.

But union officials insisted that many of those calling out sick are just taking backup jobs so they can pay their bills; others can no longer afford child care and are forced to stay home with the kids. Whatever the motive, the sickouts will make flying more dangerous.

“This will definitely affect the flying public who we [are] sworn to protect,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN. Thomas’ union represents some 55,000 TSA employees, who screen approximately 800 million fliers a year; he is based at JFK.

Morning-shift officers at the airport are being forced to work extra hours to cover the gaps, he told CNN. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport typically has only 25 to 30 TSA employees call out sick each day; now, those call-outs are up 200 to 300 percent, a local TSA official told CNN.

In North Carolina, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham’s airports are seeing call-outs jump by 10 percent, local union president Mac Johnson told the news network. “Performance standards will not change,” spokesman Michael Bilello told The Post Friday night, insisting that “call-outs” are far lower than reported, and are causing only “minimal impact.” “To date, screening wait times remain well within TSA standards,” he added.

But call-outs are expected to only increase the longer the shutdown continues, causing the agency to bridge the gap through either long lines or less screening. Officers could even be forced to loosen standards for checked baggage, experts told CNN.

From AZ Central - Effects of government shutdown in Arizona surface at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport

The partial federal government shutdown may so far seem a distant issue to many Arizonans, as Republicans and Democrats in Washington maneuver to find a solution, but some effects are starting to surface.

In one sign of mounting frustration, more Transportation Security Administration workers have called in sick across the nation and in Phoenix, though a spokeswoman for Sky Harbor International said the airport hasn't yet suffered any operational issues.

But the shutdown will be felt more acutely the longer it lasts, and Arizona could take more of the brunt than most states, even as the iconic Grand Canyon continues to welcome visitors. Ominously, President Trump warned Friday that it could last for months — or even years.

That's of particular concern to TSA workers, according to Juan Casarez, president of Local 1250 of the American Federation of Government Employees.

He said the union, which represents 700 TSA workers in Arizona, hasn't sanctioned such action, though he added the employees are growing increasingly concerned about how they will make ends meet without pay if the shutdown continues much longer.

"I'm getting calls daily, hourly, from members wondering what to do next,"Casarez said. "If it goes another few weeks, they will have to start thinking of alternatives" such as finding a second job, he added.

Most TSA employees were paid late last week and haven't yet missed a paycheck. The next scheduled pay date is Jan. 12.

Varying impact by federal agency - The current stoppage began Dec. 22 and, if it lasts for about another week, would become the longest ever. The impasse reflects a budget stalemate over Trump's demand for $5 billion to construct a border wall. Democrats in Congress oppose that but have proposed alternative measures to fund six of seven remaining federal appropriations bills.

Nationally, more than 380,000 federal employees are off the job in non-paid furlough status, while 420,000 others have been required to work without pay (though Congress has authorized pay retroactively in past shutdowns).

Combined, that reflects more than one-quarter of the roughly 2.9 million people working for the federal government. Most employees in core government functions deemed essential are still on the job, including members of the military, U.S. Postal Service, Border Patrol and TSA, and those supporting the Veterans Administration, Social Security, Medicare. Medicaid and food stamps.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs is fully funded for fiscal year 2019," reads a note on the agency's website. "All VA operations will continue unimpeded." Conversely, the Internal Revenue Service reportedly is operating on a skeleton staff, raising the possibility that the tax-filing season and refunds could be delayed. Last year, the IRS began processing returns Jan. 29.

Arizona's exposure to shutdown - Roughly 55,600 Arizonans work for the federal government in the state, according to the latest tally, for November, by the state's Office of Economic Opportunity.

That works out to just under 2 percent of the 2.94 million payroll jobs in Arizona. State employees, including those in education, are almost twice as numerous, at 96,500 workers. Local-government employees are more numerous still, at 281,000.

But while the raw numbers don't sound massive, Arizona faces a fairly high exposure to the shutdown, should it linger. The state had the 14th most federal employees, according to a 2017 tally by that cited Labor Department figures.

California had the most federal workers, 250,000, followed by the District of Columbia, Texas, Virginia and Maryland. Arizona's current count of federal employees is virtually unchanged from 2017.

A report released this week by Wallethub estimates that Arizona ranks 10th in terms of economic exposure to the shutdown. Wallethub looked at several factors beyond federal jobs, including federal contract dollars per capita. According to this broader definition, the District of Columbia faces the most impact, followed by New Mexico, Maryland, Hawaii and Alaska, Wallethub said.

In Arizona, the Department of Veterans Affairs accounts for the most federal jobs, about 8,700, followed by the Department of Health and Human Services (4,400), the Department of Interior (4,000) and the Department of Agriculture (2,300). That's in addition to the military presence, including 3,600 in the Army, 3,200 in the Air Force and 1,200 with the Department of Defense.

Federal worker anxiety at the airport - Jovan Petkovic, a TSA transportation security officer in Phoenix, said that while employees haven't yet missed a paycheck, the government shutdown is a constant topic of conversation at the workplace.

"If the next paycheck isn't there, people wonder how they will feed their kids," said Petkovic, who estimates the vast majority of his co-workers would start feeling financial pain if the shutdown lasts more than a month or so.

"Morale is going down because people are stressed," he said. "It's frustrating for everyone."

Michelle Morris, another TSA transportation security officer, said low morale could be causing people to miss work already. For a Friday morning shiftat Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, only two of six workers in her shift showed up, forcing TSA managers to pull personnel from elsewhere.

Hundreds of TSA employees working without pay called in sick across the nation this week, CNN reported. Morris hasn't worked through a shutdown before but recounted stories that colleagues would pitch in gasoline money to help co-workers or even bring food to share.

"I'm living paycheck to paycheck," said Morris, who has been on the job less than a year. "I wasn't prepared for this and haven't had a chance to build up (a cash cushion)."

A Buckeye woman who said her husband works for the Border Patrol expressed support for President Trump but also voiced frustration that the president isn't paying federal employees such as those protecting the border.

"I wish (Trump) would exclude Homeland Security from the shutdown," said the woman, who identified herself as Missy E., a mother of two young children. She declined to give her last name out of concern for her family's security.

"We have no idea when we will get paid next, and that’s horrible," she said in an email. "I really hope this shutdown ends soon because bills don’t care if we get paid or not."

Banks, credit unions step in - A few financial institutions are starting to offer relief to federal government employees who have been furloughed or are working without pay. Vantage West Credit Union in Tucson said it will extend payments on existing loans for up to three months, with no service fee.

It also will let members borrow up to $5,This article was sourced from NYpost This article was sourced from AZ Central

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