With a TSA check­point clos­ing, MIA be­comes a shut­down bat­tle­ground

Miami Herald - - BUSINESS - BY DOU­GLAS HANKS [email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

As Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port pre­pares to close a con­course to de­part­ing flights amid a short­age of se­cu­rity screen­ers, Con­gres­sional Democrats used the ter­mi­nal as an ex­am­ple of why the fed­eral shut­down needs to end im­me­di­ately.

Rep. Donna Sha­lala, newly elected to a Mi­ami dis­trict, cited the planned clos­ing of a Pizza Hut in MIA’s Ter­mi­nal G Saturday af­ter­noon as one of the rip­ple ef­fects from a par­tial shut­down that’s about to be the long­est in U.S. history.

“This is an im­pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion, and it’s ab­so­lutely ir­re­spon­si­ble,” Sha­lala said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at MIA with fel­low South Florida Demo­cratic rep­re­sen­ta­tives Deb­bie Mu­carselPow­ell and Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz and unions rep­re­sent­ing avi­a­tion and air­port work­ers. “The eco­nomic im­pact of these shut­downs is sim­ply hor­ri­ble for our com­mu­nity.”

The Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­ported stan­dard wait times at MIA Fri­day morn­ing as the week­end rush be­gan, statis­tics that were mir­rored in mod­est lines through­out the day in the ter­mi­nals.

The county-owned air­port caused a stir Thurs­day night when it re­vealed plans to close Con­course G to out­bound flights Saturday af­ter­noon be­cause TSA con­cluded it might not have enough screen­ers to keep the se­cu­rity check­point op­er­at­ing there amid a spike in un­paid work­ers not show­ing up for shifts.

Air­port ad­min­is­tra­tors noted the con­course was the slow­est at MIA, and that about a dozen flights would be shifted out of G to other ter­mi­nals. They pre­dicted no dis­rup­tion from the changes. Mem­bers of the me­dia out­num­bered pas­sen­gers out­side G Fri­day night as the CBS Evening News pre­pared to go live there with its re­port on the shut­down’s ef­fects.

But air­port ad­min­is­tra­tors said they couldn’t pre­dict what the next week will bring if the shut­down con­tin­ues over Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­mand that govern­ment spend­ing bills for 2019 in­clude about $5 bil­lion for an ex­panded wall on the coun­try’s south­ern bor­der. Should more TSA work­ers call in sick, the county-owned air­port is ready for more check­point clo­sures.

“We’ll have to see,” said air­port spokesman Greg Chin.

With Con­course G, home to United and smaller air­lines, clos­ing to out­bound flights at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sun­day and Mon­day, restau­rants and shops in­side the ter­mi­nal will shut down, too.

For now, re­tail­ers on Con­course G are plan­ning to send work­ers to other lo­ca­tions at MIA, said Wendi Walsh of the Unite Here union, which rep­re­sents hos­pi­tal­ity work­ers in Mi­ami. But she said the plan is short-term and might end if more con­courses lose check­points. “We fear even more of the air­port will close,” she said.

With the shut­down, TSA em­ploy­ees and other staffers con­sid­ered cru­cial to safety and se­cu­rity are work­ing with­out pay.

Fri­day was the first time since the par­tial shut­down be­gan Dec. 22 that a pay­day ar­rived with af­fected work­ers re­ceiv­ing no com­pen­sa­tion.

Bill Kis­seadoo, pres­i­dent of the Mi­ami union for fed­eral air-traf­fic con­trollers, said the missed pay­day has es­ca­lated the pres­sure on the roughly 100 work­ers at MIA’s con­trol tower who are sup­posed to fo­cus solely on help­ing planes take off and land safely.

“Many of them right now are strug­gling, be­cause they have bills to pay,” he said. “This has be­come a big dis­trac­tion in the work­place.”

DANIEL A VARELA Mi­ami Her­ald

From left in front, U.S. Reps. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz, Deb­bie Mu­carsel-Pow­ell, and Donna Sha­lala stand with Robert Gue­vara, back left, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Pro­fes­sional Avi­a­tion Safety Spe­cial­ists, and John Hu­bert, AFGE union rep­re­sen­ta­tive, as the South Florida con­gress­women talk about the govern­ment shut­down on Fri­day at Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

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