For years, AFGE has called on Congress to lift the arbitrary cap imposed on TSA that limits the number of full-time TSA Officers that can be hired. And, for years, our TSA Officers have raised concerns about understaffing and high turnover at the agency.
With lines at airport screening checkpoints reaching record highs this spring, it appears Congress is finally ready to take action.
Last week, group of 70 lawmakers wrote a letter to their colleagues on a critical Homeland Security committee urging them to ditch the 45,000-position cap on TSOs, which keeps the agency from swiftly handling rapid increases in air travel.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), ranking member on the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Transportation, and Reps. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.) and John Lewis (Ga.), are among the lawmakers who joined the letter. They urged the committee to remove it from the 2017 Homeland Security spending bill released on June 8.
TSA "must have the authority and resources to effectively protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce,” the letter says. “We strongly believe aviation security must never be compromised by irrational or unjustified congressional caps on the number of transportation security officers the agency may employ to best protect American travelers.”
Because of the cap, TSA has focused on hiring part-time employees -- the part of the workforce with the highest turnover.
“We’ve already seen the type of effects such an arbitrary cap can have on the TSO workforce,” said Cox. “Our officers have low pay, are treated like second-class citizens, forced to do mandatory overtime, and then jump ship as soon as a full-time job opportunity comes along elsewhere. No one can support a family on part-time pay.”
But lifting the cap is just the beginning. The permanent solution to long wait requires Congress to approve funding for the amount of positions needed to screen the growing ranks of passengers . In May, AFGE called on Congress to provide emergency funding to enable TSA to hire 6,000 additional screeners. Thus far, Congress has approved the hiring of about 800 new screeners – a meager effort that will not solve the long-term problem.
“Adding one or two officers to a security line will do little to ease the crush of passengers waiting two or three hours at times to get through the checkpoint, and excessive mandatory overtime will lead to overworked employees,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said during a recent National Public Radio interview.