AFGE is asking the Transportation Security Administration to be more proactive and take steps to protect Transportation Security Officers who staff airports nationwide.
The 2019 novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan City in China, but it has spread quickly to other parts of the world. As of the time of this writing, it has killed over 900 people worldwide and infected more than 40,000 in over 25 countries. In the United States, nearly 300 Americans in at least 26 states have already been investigated for possible exposure to the coronavirus. Eleven cases already have been confirmed positive.
Transportation Security Officers are uniquely susceptible to this outbreak. Every day, TSOs screen more than 2 million passengers and crew members on average. Through pat downs and other screenings, their job brings them in close and nearly constant contact with the travelling public, including international passengers entering the United States from overseas. Our officers are exposed to all the contaminants, illnesses, and diseases that may accompany those travelers.
“We are writing to urge you to take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of these Transportation Security Officers,” said AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley in a Jan. 29 letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “The initial response by TSA management is not sufficient, leaving the officers at risk by denying TSO requests to wear basic protective equipment like N95 respiratory masks.”
Specifically, our union is asking Pekoske to instruct TSA management, particularly at gateway airports, to allow TSOs to wear N95 respiratory masks upon request. Any additional measures recommended by public health authorities should be implemented immediately as the situation unfolds.