AFGE called on Congress to pass emergency legislation funding the hiring of 6,000 additional full-time screeners to alleviate long airport security lines.
“These additional TSOs will at least begin to address the shortage of TSOs needed to reduce the delays passengers are facing in airports across the country,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. wrote in a letter sent to House and Senate leaders on May 12.
The Transportation Security Administration currently has about 42,000 officers on the job, down from 47,000 in 2013. At the same time, the volume of passengers has risen 15 percent, from 643 million to 740 million.
Instead of ensuring that TSA has adequate funding to maintain sufficient staffing, Congress has imposed an arbitrary cap on the number of full-time TSA officers (TSOs) for consecutive years. Across the country, AFGE members took to the airwaves and local media to spread the word about the chronic understaffing.
At JFK International Airport in New York, TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas spoke with CNN Money about the need for more TSOs. He said that despite there being 21 security lanes, rarely more than seven were open at any given time. "All these big airports, you never see all the lanes open," he said.
He also commented that TSOs regularly were forced to miss their breaks – a management practice that has been reported across the country. There are even instances where TSOs were denied permission to use the restroom because of long security lines.
Local 777 member Eddie Palacios commented on these types of practices, particularly the use of mandatory overtime, when he spoke to WBEZ, Chicago's local NPR affiliate:
“We are definitely overworked because we feel we are understaffed,” Palacios said. “We’re mandated to do overtime. When you’re mandated to do overtime and you have prior things that you have planned, how much are you really giving the screening process? And the fact that within the last 8 years we haven’t really had a serious raise.”
“The long wait times we’re seeing now are a direct result of Congress’ failure to give TSA the money it needs to do its job," said Cox. "Congress needs to provide TSA with stable, long-term funding so our overworked officers can get the help they need and airline passengers don’t have to wait hours to get through security lines.”