Travelers can expect longer security lines at airports across the country and possible flight delays as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has frozen hiring and overtime hours.
TSA’s decision to slow down the hiring process will exacerbate the already existing staffing issues at the agency, which has long suffered from high turnover rates due to low pay and poor treatment of workers.
“We lose a large number of officers every month who leave the agency to find better jobs, sometimes in the same airport. We simply can’t afford any gaps in hiring,” said Hydrick Thomas, president of AFGE TSA Council 100 which represents 45,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) across the country.
“We have dealt with severe understaffing for years. A hiring freeze and overtime cap will undoubtedly make lines longer and cause flight delays,” he added.
TSA, which was created after 9/11 to increase airport security functions, is classifying this as a temporary delay— not a freeze. The agency says it is temporarily delaying bringing on new hires and limiting overtime in a preemptive move to preserve funding for anticipated overtime in the upcoming summer months.
“Because of the low pay, our officers often rely on overtime hours to help make ends meet,” said Thomas. “Now, they will have to do an already difficult job with less staff and no overtime pay.”
TSA officers are denied some of the same basic workplace protections, pay and benefits as their fellow federal workers. Additionally, TSA does not follow the General Schedule pay scale with regular step increases — making TSOs some of the lowest paid federal employees.
It is because of these workplace issues that TSA has astronomically high turnover rates, and its employees rank it as one of the worst places to work in the federal government.
Two bills introduced in both the House and Senate could help change the workplace atmosphere at TSA. The Rights for Transportation Security Officers of 2019 (H.R. 1140) and the Strengthening American Transportation Security Act of 2019 (S. 944) introduced by Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), respectively, would grant TSA officers the same basic workplace rights as their Department of Homeland Security counterparts. The House will vote on H.R. 1140 this week.