DALLAS - The unions representing federal employees at the nation's airports protested at DFW Airport on Wednesday and said the stress of the shutdown is beginning to affect their members.
TSA officers, air traffic controllers, and safety inspectors are working without pay and, in some cases, receiving handouts from the public.
Dozens of union members and federal workers affected by the shutdown turned out to protest at DFW’s Terminal D and demand that leaders in Washington bring the shutdown to end. As the shutdown goes into week four, the stress and strain is beginning to show among workers in an industry that prides itself on safety and secure.
One TSA employee brought out his three sons to the protest to show that this shutdown doesn’t just affect workers— it also affects families. The most troubling aspect of the shutdown, workers say, is the uncertainty of how long it could last.
Union members of flight attendants and pilots came together in solidarity with the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union in the country representing federal employees impacted by the government shutdown. Pilots and flight attendants are not directly affected by the shutdown said they are beginning to feel a change in the air -- especially among passengers.
“They’ve got long lines, they’re being rerouted, they’re starting to get a little bit of air rage and they’re getting upset,” said flight attendant Alana Billingsley. “So, that is definitely going to make it harder on the flight attendants.”
A member of the Allied Pilots Association said everyone involved in the travel process, from curbside to aircraft, is important.
“The reason we’re out here is because this is part of our crew. The TSA agents, the FAA inspectors, right on up to our flight crews. We’re all part of the process of keeping passengers safe,” said Capt. Dennis Tajer.
Airports across the country were feeling the impact of the shutdown as more and more TSA employees failed to show up for work.
DFW and Love Field airports have both said the partial shutdown is not affecting their operations. Both also said they are continuing to monitor the situation.
TSA checkpoint wait times reached 41 minutes at Love Field on Tuesday. That was the second longest in the country, only behind Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Wait times there peaked at about 80 minutes with security lines snaking through the country’s busiest airport.
A spokesman for Love Field said the delay was an isolated incident not related to the shutdown. He pointed out that 41 minutes was the peak time, not the average.
TSA workers have been on the job without pay for 26 days. Many have called in sick in protest.
On Monday, TSA reported 6.8 percent of employees missed work nationwide. That’s compared to 2.5 percent a year ago on the same day.
“I think it’s a shame that people have to work and not get paid and then, you know, it’s causing a lot of trouble with the passengers being able to catch their flights on time,” said Benita Rasberry, who was traveling through Love Field. “I think it’s a shame everything going on with that.”
Union leaders say the longer the shutdown goes on the more likely workers will simply choose to find another job.