TSA Members not Granted Security

Two TSA workers standing together in an airport security checkpoint.

Wikimedia Commons

Two TSA workers standing together in an airport security checkpoint.

Max Goldrich, Staff Writer

After Congress and the President failed to come to a final Appropriations agreement – an agreement regarding the total of assets devoted to funding the government – on Dec. 22, 2018, the government commenced a partial shutdown that became the longest-lasting shutdown in U.S. history at 35 days. While most Americans did not feel the direct impact of the shutdown, one area affected was air travel.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is tasked with airport security. These agents worked without pay; some protested by calling in “sick” and not showing up to work. According to CBS News, there was a 200 to 300 percent increase in TSA agents calling in ill due to the shutdown. This absence was visible to multiple members of the Masters community.

Junior Brian Margolis saw this absence firsthand in early January when he traveled to Ohio. “Although I haven’t seen a significant decrease in TSA workers, security lines were moving much slower than normal and there appeared to be reduced morale as the agents were particularly indifferent to travelers.”

Freshman Lily Schwarcz also saw a decline in TSA members in U.S. airports when she traveled to Argentina in late December. “In America, I saw that the lines were very long because only one or two people would be working, but when I went to Argentina, this had no effect on their airport system.”

Junior Zeynep Ozturk, an international student from Turkey, noticed the change in TSA airport security in early January when she traveled back to the U.S. “U.S. Customs lines are typically very long, but this time it was even longer. They kept calling for agents to open up more lines, but it was hard to find officers.”

Another international student, Eiler Byberi, also noticed a difference in TSA agents in early January when traveling back to the U.S. “Though there were noticeably fewer TSA agents, security screenings were carried out normally. It just took much longer.”

In a phone interview with a TSA customer service member, Tiffany (who requested to have her surname remain anonymous), mentioned that the government shutdown did not impact her paycheck. She spends her day answering questions about airport security on the TSA helpline. “Since I am a contracted member of TSA, the government keeps paying me.” This shows that not everyone at TSA is impacted equally.

Apart from impacting TSA agents, security sections of airports have closed off. At Atlanta Airport, and Houston Airport, travelers were dismissed from being checked, skyrocketing the risk of danger. In addition, Miami Airport was temporarily shutdown, causing an unscheduled burden to travelers.

On Friday, Jan. 25th, President Trump signed a temporary budget bill to re-open the government for three weeks. If a compromise is not made, the financial pain experienced by the TSA agents as well as the inconvenience of travelers in the domestic United States may return.