TSA screeners will receive $500 bonuses for working during the government shutdown

Jan 15, 2019, 8:43 AM
airport security...
Travelers proceed through a security checkpoint at the Salt Lake International Airport in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. Travelers left behind nearly a million dollars at U.S. airport security checkpoints last year, including about $19,000 in foreign currency. (Photo: Spenser Heaps / KSL)
(Photo: Spenser Heaps / KSL)

TSA screeners will be given $500 bonuses to help alleviate their financial struggles through what is now the longest government shutdown in history, TSA Administrator David P. Pekoske announced on Friday.

The announcement comes on the heels of a mass shortage of TSA screeners, who have been calling in sick as a form of subtle protest against the shutdown. As “essential federal workers”, TSA screeners are required to work through the shutdown even though they will not be paid until it is resolved.

The move has been interpreted, by some, as an effort to keep screeners on the job, especially given the timing.

This weekend, for the first time since the shutdown began, a lack of TSA employees has forced two major airports to close down some of their services.

The effects of losing TSA screeners

Federal workers protest

Cheryl Monroe, right, a Food and Drug Administration employee, and Bertrice Sanders, a Social Security Administration employee, rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown in Detroit, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Since the government shutdown began, TSA employees have been using sick days as a way to get around laws prohibiting federal employees from going on strike.

Airports have seen a serious shortage in the number of TSA screeners on staff, with 1 in 20 calling in sick on an average day, according to the Washington Post.

This weekend, the protest started to serious effects. Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport was forced to shut down one of its security checkpoints on Sunday because of a lack of staff, while Miami International Airport was forced to shut down a whole terminal for three days.

On Friday, however, Pekoske took to Twitter to announce his plan to help the unpaid TSA workers make ends meet while they wait for the shutdown to end.

In addition to offering a $500 bonus to every uniformed screener, Pekoske has said that he will send out payments to every employee who worked on Saturday, Dec. 22, the first day of the shutdown.

Pekoske says that he discovered that, because Dec. 22 fell into a pay period that was otherwise before the shutdown, he was legally allowed to pay employees who showed up that day.

He was less direct about why he was able to hand out a $500 bonus during a shutdown, saying only that he was able to do it because of “unique authorities provided TSA in law.”

Employees who worked on Dec. 22 have been promised that they will be paid by the end of Tuesday, while the $500 bonus is to be posted sometime over the next few days.

Some workers have expressed nothing but delight over the news, thanking and praising Pekoske online for making sure that they at least received some kind of pay. Others, however, have protested that it isn’t enough, with one complaining that it “doesn’t cover food, let alone rent.”

It remains to be seen whether the bonus will persuade TSA workers to stop calling in sick.

More to the story

KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic talked about this story on the air, and Dave Noriega says that the whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

Dave says that he flew to L.A. this weekend and, despite his and Debbie’s predictions that “TSA was going to rise up and revolt,” there was “no discernible difference between every one of the ten thousand times I’ve traveled.”

If you missed the show live, you can still catch everything they had to say on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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TSA screeners will receive $500 bonuses for working during the government shutdown